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April 28, 2015

Baltimore
Posted by Patrick at 08:00 AM * 235 comments

Ta-Nehisi Coates, last night:

When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is “correct” or “wise,” any more than a forest fire can be “correct” or “wise.” Wisdom isn’t the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the rioters themselves.
As Terry Karney observed on Twitter, the amazing thing isn’t that Baltimore has a riot right now, it’s that other American cities aren’t rioting as well.

Comments on Baltimore:
#1 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 08:46 AM:

Well put.
It reminds me of how when young I was not defended against various wrongs by adults because the other adults involved wanted to keep a peace that they didn't notice had already been broken. That of course is from the dysfunctional family threads, but it smells like the same thing as on the national level.
The rot runs to the roots. Will the whole tree have to be blasted?

#2 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 10:16 AM:

First off, I am Mrs. Whitey McWhiterson, so I won't pretend that I share the experiences of the protestors in Baltimore.

That said -- years ago, I found myself being followed and yelled at by a (white) guy, and thankfully made the decision to turn and confront him rather than break into a run. Turned out he was plainclothes store security who thought he'd seen me take something.

I hate to think what would have happened if there hadn't been enough bystanders for me to feel comfortable stopping and turning around; if I hadn't had a reasonable expectation that those bystanders would side with me against a man I believed might attack; and if I hadn't easily been able to find the store receipt to show him.

Ever since, I've believed that authorities have a duty to be aware that the innocent may be frightened of them, too, and to take that into account before escalating a situation.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 10:18 AM:

A very useful resource here: BaltimoreUprising.org

#4 ::: Shawn Crowley ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 10:29 AM:

Coates is right. Reminds me of so many weary conversations about the Vietnam War. One broken window at a demonstration brought out the criticism "don't you know that violence isn't the solution." No irony intended.

#5 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:11 AM:

The police in a lot of places appear to be out of control, unaccountable to the public and largely unaccountable to the elected government that nominally commands them. That's a huge problem, and we need to address it.

I am extremely skeptical that rioting will lead anywhere good in addressing it. In Baltimore, as in Ferguson, as in any number of other places, the result of rioting is overwhelmingly bad.

a. It changes the subject from police brutality and impunity (which is a real and persistent problem) to the very visible terror and brutality of the rioters and looters and the police/national guardsmen responding to them.

b. It does a lot of damage to people who had nothing to do with police brutality and impunity, and in fact may have been victims of it themselves. Lots of innocent people get beat up or have their shops burned down.

c. The damage done by (b) sticks around for years after the riot's over. It leads to food deserts, lack of jobs, and white flight (where "white" means "anyone with the means to leave"). How'd you like to own real estate in Ferguson right now?

d. Because these riots are overwhelmingly along racial lines, and because mob violence is scary as hell (and it's happening in a place with a huge amount of day-to-day crime), it has the potential to get most of the nearby whites to quietly support the police even if they're brutal and unaccountable. This is pure lose.

#6 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:18 AM:

So what would you propose instead? What has worked, or will work?

What can you promise people as a viable enough solution that they can maintain the emotional control to watch their community be brutalized with impunity?

From where I'm sitting, it sounds like you're counseling that the black people of these cities exercise superhuman patience with no change in sight.

Humans don't work that way.

#7 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:28 AM:

Not-rioting certainly has failed to work for the past forty+ years ...

#8 ::: Chris Lawson ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:31 AM:

To quote lifelong advocate of nonviolence Martin Luther King:

I'm absolutely convinced that a riot merely intensifies the fears of the white community while relieving the guilt. And I feel that we must always work with an effective, powerful weapon and method that brings about tangible results. But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.
#9 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:46 AM:

abi:

*Nothing* has worked so far with getting control of our police forces--that's a current problem across the US. I have seen no reason to think that rioting contributes to solving it, and my best guess is that it probably makes it *harder* to solve. If you want people to support the police no matter what they do, getting most of the citizens scared of criminals is a pretty good way to do it. Rioting and looting is a *great* way to spread fear.

The best way I can see forward on getting control of the police involves building coalitions between blacks and whites, across social classes. I think the national media focus on police brutality and killings, driven largely by the availability of cellphone video and Youtube, gives us some chance to try to build that kind of coalition--get some kind of meaningful police oversight, get rid of the state laws that make it really hard to prosecute or investigate police misconduct, set up independent investigative and prosecutorial agencies in the states to deal with police misconduct, change use-of-force guidelines to make interactions with the police less fraught with danger.

Riots will make this a lot harder, for all the reasons I said before. Along with that, rioting and looting involves a lot of innocent victims, who no more deserve to be beaten or have their store looted or have the building they live in get burned down than the victims of police brutality deserve to get smacked around or repeatedly tased or shot in the back while running away.

And I guess it's a little disturbing to watch decent people make excuses for that stuff. About as disturbing, in fact, as watching decent people make excuses for police brutality. It seems like we all decide which team we're on and then find ways to excuse the bad behavior on our team and really get enraged about it on the other team. That's a force for evil in the world.

#10 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:46 AM:

abi @6:

You have clearly stated the crux of my personal hesitation to post on this thread: I don't have a solution. I don't even know if I have the right position from which to offer an opinion.

I'm white, rich (relatively speaking), over 40 and have a host of other things in my "police won't bother you" back pocket, so even saying 'I understand your rage' seems hypocritical to me. I don't. I can empathize with the rage, but that's really the best, lightest footprint I have to offer. I've looked for marches in my city, but have not readily found one. I've signed petitions and encouraged others to do so, but that seems like just a means to get on yet another mailing list. I'm willing to help, but I don't see any useful levers to push.

I agree with Albatross; I don't think that rioting is going to lead to a positive outcome. It's a stacked deck. Rioting takes the narrative focus away from the violence of the police and institutions that are fundamentally responsible for the problem, and places it firmly (if a bit regretfully) on the shoulders of those who should not be called upon to bear that additional weight. Having to push back against that narrative takes effort away from protesting against the institutions that are causing the harm in the first place. So, no. I don't think riots can fix the problem of institutional violence and racism.

I just don't have anything else to offer. I understand why they are happening. I accept that there are people pushed to breaking strain, and I wish I knew how to alleviate that strain.

I can list things I think could help the situation:
* elimination of large fines for minor/petty crimes
* ban on using fines for basic funding of government systems
* a shift away from using police and the prison system to handle issues like drug use, truancy, school discipline
* massive reform of our current prison and a ban on all for-profit prisons
* mandatory non-in-house review of any weapons discharge by a police officer
* end to the Military=>Policy pipeline of weapons and other equipment. (Seriously; there is no police department on earth that needs a tank.)

There's other things on the list, but that's a start. I just don't know how to make that happen.

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:57 AM:

albatross @9:
And I guess it's a little disturbing to watch decent people make excuses for that stuff.

I guess I find it a little disturbing how little empathy you express, or recognize in others, in your haste to be always, reflexively, evenhanded.

Not every expression of understanding, not every expression that things aren't evenly balanced, is "making excuses". Sometimes it's making the effort to walk a mile in someone's shoes, to understand why they do what they do. Sometimes it's a desire to share their pain, to build a bridge to their common humanity. Sometimes it's sheer grief and pain, not because I suffer it, but because what happens to the least of us impoverishes us all.

For all that you profess to be my co-religionist, you spend very little time doing that. It grieves me.

#12 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 12:04 PM:

albatross, at the end of #9 you're drawing a false equivalence between victims of oppression and their oppressors. People who make excuses for rioters are not the same as people who make excuses for police who brutalize and murder the people they're sworn to protect. Baldly stating that they're the same doesn't make it so.

People who are abused will repond. If you take away every productive means of doing so, then they'll use unproductive ones.

I don't feel the need to "excuse" the riots. But it's important to put the blame where it belongs: On the Baltimore Police Department.

#13 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 12:11 PM:

What I don't understand is the failure to act when there was an easily observed problem.

The day the poor guy died from injuries inflicted by those six cops, would have been the day (had I been mayor) those cops would have found themselves in a jail cell. You don't let known murders roam the streets, and that goes double for anyone who misuses the authority of their uniform.

Instead, everyone in authority sat on their hands. Some will say I'm being too harsh -- perhaps, but police should be held to a higher standard. (And being put on administrative leave with pay is not punishment.)

If you don't want protests and riots you've got to show the citizens that the law applies to everyone -- not just everyone without a badge and a gun.

#14 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 12:13 PM:

albatross @5:

The scenario you describe in 5c "The damage done by (b) sticks around for years after the riot's over. It leads to food deserts, lack of jobs, and white flight (where "white" means "anyone with the means to leave"). How'd you like to own real estate in Ferguson right now? is, in large part, already true in some of the parts of Baltimore where rioting is taking place. My wife has photos taken a year ago (when she took an ill-advised shortcut) of blocks of buildings that look bombed-out; boarded windows, no roofs, and an occasional occupied house with a family sitting on the stoop. No shops, no jobs. Signs on the plywood windows asking "How many more have to die?". It's a little difficult to imagine people living there being deterred by "You will make your situation worse!"

#15 ::: venus ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 12:18 PM:

I'm white, but very much lower class. I lived in a violent inner city neighborhood for almost twenty years. I know what it's like to watch a SWAT team crawl across your lawn at 2 in the morning, to be woken by gunshots, to debate with yourself--which is a greater risk, the two guys beating each other on your sidewalk or calling the cops?

To those who think the rioters are trying to 'solve' things, they're not. That's not how people work. I don't believe rioting will 'solve' police brutality.

But for God's sake, at some point, you watch your loved ones get the shit kicked out of them, or tossed into jail, or arrested for no reason, or flat out murdered. You watch a video of people just like you, who could be you or your brother or your husband or your uncle, get gunned down in cold blood by cops who were already sweeping it under the rug--

What the hell can you do but cry out? Sometimes the screams of the heart are gentle things, reasonable things.

Sometimes they're not.

#16 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 12:43 PM:

I'm pulled between rioting is a thing people do sometimes under sufficient pressure-- it doesn't mean the group the rioters are from are especially awful people-- and rioters are, in effect, oppressing people who are being used as a backdrop for the rioters' anger.

I will also note that that a good many police have been behaving horribly under almost no pressure-- guess what, it is not decent to handcuff someone, not seatbelt them, and give them a hard ride in a police van.

I have no idea what do with people like this. I mean, in theory, their behavior could be treated as criminal, but you can only treat behavior as criminal if you have a culture that sees it as criminal.

#17 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 12:50 PM:

albatross, #5: How old were you in 1967?

cyllan, #10: I'd say you've made a good start, at least. If your list were to be implemented, it would go a long way toward alleviating the worst of the problems.

abi, #11: Also, we must remember that in many situations, "not taking sides" evaluates to "supporting the status quo".

#18 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:06 PM:

Slate had an article on Sandtown, where Freddie Gray lived and was arrested. 1/4 of buildings vacant. High lead paint problems among other neighborhood conditions.

There were peaceful protests for days before rioting occurred. Some people decided to exacerbate a tense situation. And now the attention of a much larger part of the media is on Baltimore and its problems.

The governor has been forced to take action on urban issues even though he was elected on a campaign of redirecting attention and funds to the rural areas of Maryland from the urban areas. He may release the extra school funds that he decided to "not spend, just save" on the urban areas.

And the schools are an issue. It has been a state-mandated testing period (PARCC-end of year tests). So since the tests are considered important, the rest of the school supports for students are less important right now. There was a flyer organizing the high school students to go to a central location and cause trouble for the police. The teachers and administrators didn't pick this up or didn't pass the information up the chain. So an instigator managed to recruit a lot of teenagers (lees impulse-control than adults) to cause trouble on Monday. Possibly there were fewer after-school activities due to the testing period. Also lack of resources due to urban poverty, but the testing period probably did not make things better.

There is not one lever to pull to improve the situation. Empathy (to understand the problems) and inspiration (to not use the problems as a reason to despair) are both necessary.

Abi's link has more than a few resources for teenagers to stay busy during the time they would have been in school. I'm glad that the churches and the recreation department had the inspiration to make those arrangements.

#19 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:11 PM:

I wonder how much the past 15 years of propaganda in support of "national security" has made this worse. It also is more visible, now that so many of us have pocket videocams. But I think the defense of torture and all manner of national security abuses by, now, two administrations has given support to the bad cops.

And something I wrote years ago comes back to me: "First they do it for you, then they do it to you." White folks are only provisionally immune.

#20 ::: Sarah E. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:18 PM:

I've also heard that the public transit was shut down just as high schools were letting out for the day, so some of the supposed rioters were actually teens milling about downtown, trying to figure out how to get home.

#21 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:21 PM:

Days like today, it's pretty great to have somewhere to talk about this stuff that isn't all trolled up.

Thanks yet again, moderators, for making this island of civilization.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:43 PM:

Raven on the Hill @19:
"First they do it for you, then they do it to you." White folks are only provisionally immune.

I noticed that about five, six years ago when Tracy Chapman's self-titled album turned up on my shuffle one day. And all these things that had seemed like an alien world to me growing up in white suburbia were things that my friends of all ethnic backgrounds were currently experiencing.

I thought then, and I think now, that there's no such thing as "not my problem" in these matters. There's only "not my problem yet", and the time's coming fast when it will be. Best we get ahead of it, and treat the people already there as our brothers and sisters—and our teachers.

#23 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:43 PM:

Albatross @9: I must admit, I'm puzzled by many people's attitude to the 4th of July. What do people take themselves to be celebrating when they do so?

More generally: I don't know a great deal about the authenticity of this tweet (though it was retweeted by a source that I normally take to be reliable) - but it seems relevant to the question of whether non-violent protest would be a more effective way of addressing grievances.

#24 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:49 PM:

PGBB: People I trust who have multiple eyewitness accounts to use say that what actually went down in re the high school is as follows:

1. A flyer was circulated suggesting high school students could gather at a certain school (also a transit hub) to engage in protests.

2. Police decide this is a "credible threat" of mob violence, and descend in force on this school before school lets out.

3. Police stop busses and begin taking people off them -- again, this is a transit hub, with many people traveling through the area unaware of the "credible threat".

4. School lets out and now NONE of the kids from that school have any way to get home, whether or not they were intending to stick around and protest.

5. Lots of people start getting really frustrated with the police.

6. Police start tasing and macing people.

Maybe I'm just showing my suspicious long-time Chicagoan roots, but that sounds strongly to me like a police-started riot, whether anyone pre-planned for it to happen that way or not. Treating everyone in the area as enemy combatants caused the riot.

We have a lot of experience of police-instigated violence in Chicago, from Haymarket to the Democratic National Convention and beyond ...

#25 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:51 PM:

So, yes, it escalated from there and lots of kids were also perpetrating violence, but a different police response could have completely defused it (for one thing, LET PEOPLE LEAVE. Possibly strongly ENCOURAGE people to leave).

#26 ::: Priscilla King ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 01:53 PM:

Coates is right y'know. I'm legally White and Baltimore has made me queasy for a long time--but if I'd said it, instead of citing Ta-Nehisi Coates, I would've been just another Washingtonian bashing Baltimore.

But I called to report geriatric patient abuse (the patient being Asian, actually) and the dispatcher kept asking whether the patient was Black or White, and then, since the *neighborhood* was Black in any case, nobody came out to investigate for 28 hours.

Most White visitors from Washington would not have seen that, or heard about the other stories Coates cites. All they've seen is that a long, long strip of the Black side of Baltimore is a disgrace to humanity. And since the living thing most often seen on those mean streets is a drugged-out Black adult, the people who feel that they've escaped from those streets by the skin of their teeth are likely to think that drugs are the whole problem. They are wrong.

Riots are not the answer. People in Baltimore should try harder to think like Martin Luther King. They have a valid claim--why invalidate it by acting as drugged-out and brain-damaged and sub-human as the ruling sector of the population think they are?

Not "compliance," Baltimoreans. Think boycotts, sit-ins, shut-downs, strikes, and by all means think blogs.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:01 PM:

#21, Laertes: Thanks for the kind words about ML. I apologize in advance for the fact that I'm about to get heated in this "island of civlization." Sometimes civilization needs a little heatedness in its defense.

Albatross, #9, regarding the riots: "And I guess it's a little disturbing to watch decent people make excuses for that stuff."

I want you to tell us exactly who in this conversation has been "making excuses" for anything. Or if not, I want you to apologize for this baseless accusation.

Studied mischaracterizations of what others have said are not okay. There's room for nuance, and plenty for disagreement. I have no problem with the rest of your contributions to this thread. I disagree with some parts, agree with others. But your claim that anyone in this conversation is "making excuses" for rioting, violence, etc., is basically a straight-up falsehood. From the Coates quote on down, that is very precisely what people have not been doing. Your strenuous performance of the superficial forms of evenhandedness does not give you a license to pull this kind of shit.


#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:02 PM:

It looks to me as if the problem is not the 100 or so rioters whose behaviour has been magnified into massive rioting. It is the police whose criminal actions against the people of Baltimore have resulted in the city being obliged over the past few years to pay $5.7 million in compensation to people who have been wronged and injured by the constabulary (including, for example, a lady in her eighties who was injured by the police in her own home and received a paltry $95,000 in compensation). See Conor Friedersdorf's piece here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/what-policing-justice-in-baltimore-requires/391598/

#29 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:13 PM:

Priscilla King, #26: "People in Baltimore should try harder to think like Martin Luther King."

I would observe that white people should probably take a 100- or 200-year timeout on telling black people what Martin Luther King would think.

(Leaving aside the fact that he might be around to tell us if he hadn't been murdered by, oh, right, a white person.)

#30 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:21 PM:

abi:

Fair enough. I find mob violence scary as hell, and it makes it very hard for me, personally, to sympathize with people doing it. And that probably *does* make me tend to other the people doing it. When I see that footage, it's a lot easier for me to imagine what it's like to be caught up in that violence unwillingly, to be the guy working at the shop that gets looted, or the lady trying to get her kids out of the way of a big street fight between cops and rioters, or the guy locking the door to his apartment with his kids inside, turning out all the lights, and praying that some idiot doesn't torch the building he's in.

As best I can understand the situation, though, I really don't think rioting or looting are going to do anything but make the situation worse. Indeed, I think it's been quite common over the years to have occasional riots break out over a questionable police shooting, and I don't think that's led to much improvement. (Though I could be wrong here--this isn't something I know a lot about.)

#31 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:25 PM:

How many times are you going to repeat that you don't think rioting is constructive before you stop to notice that nobody's disagreeing with you on that point? Are you reading the people who are responding to you? This looks like smarm and non-engagement.

#32 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:34 PM:

#24 and #25 ::: Elliott Mason

What you have described ... is wrong-doing by the police commanders, those that are supposed to have the experience to know what causes a community to erupt. If it is so, what are they trying to achieve? Your multiple eyewitnesses are conflicting with my "people don't set out to make things worse/most issues are incompetence not malice" instinct. I can't square that account with just incompetence so I'm going to have my worldview shaken for a while here.

#33 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:34 PM:

Patrick:

You're right, I read various things in the thread (and in TNC's article) as making excuses for rioting, but that's a pretty unsympathetic reading, and that probably has to do with my own visceral reaction to this kind of footage.

All: Sorry about that.

The only example I can offer of justifying looting and rioting is an essay on the site abi linked to, and that's obviously not something she believes, or even something the people running that site believe. (They basically linked to it with a disclaimer like "we don't 100% agree with this, but it's thought provoking." Which it is, though I pretty much 100% disagree with it.)

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:38 PM:

albatross @30:

What you might consider is putting your feet into the shoes of people before they are pushed over enough edges to riot. Think about being in the traps that so many blacks are in in the US. Think about fear, deprivation, anxiety on behalf of your kids, lost opportunities, and injustice. Particularly injustice, and the loss of hope that things will improve. Think about your children accumulating the same scars, or worse, or being killed.

So maybe you wouldn't be one of the people for whom that would spill over into anger. I don't know if I would be. But I can map the despair I would be feeling across to someone with a different character, and see how that same feeling of powerlessness that turns my limbs to water, that same desire to protect and protest as a last gasp of hope, could lead to wrath.

#35 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 02:53 PM:

I have heard varying descriptions of the flyer that was circulated. I have heard it characterized both as a flyer planning a protest march, and (by the Baltimore Sun) as an announcement of a "purge" (ala the movie) that included a picture of protestors from last Saturday smashing a police car's windshield.

It is possible that there were multiple different flyers going around. I've not actually seen anyone point to any actual pictures, despite claims that word was being spread both physically and through social media (which presumably would leave digital evidence).

#36 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 03:00 PM:

So far as I know, poverty-- even structural poverty-- doesn't tend to cause rioting. Injustice is what sparks rioting.

I think it's important to understand that rioting is part of the normal human range, it isn't some especially awful thing done by an especially awful large category of people.

albatross, it might work to help you understand the fear among black people if you thought of the police as forming small mobs-- except that they're a mob you have to live with all the time.

I have no idea what's most likely to work, though video plus the *threat* of riots seems promising.

#37 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 03:42 PM:

I found this post to be helpful in understanding some of what happened. So was this one, about what that area of Baltimore is like.

#38 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 03:53 PM:

So I was idly flipping through Judith Merrill's 9th Annual Best SF of the Year (1964!) and it had a Jules Feiffer cartoon in it about a police dog arresting somebody. The guy arrested made one objection after another -- only a police man can arrest me! I'll involve the FBI! I'll take my case to the courts! I'll protest non-violently! -- but only when he turned himself in a wolf did the dog listen.

This is not new.

#39 ::: Rene D. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 04:18 PM:

Several people have posted comments similar to Abi's comment at #6:

So what would you propose instead? What has worked, or will work?
What can you promise people as a viable enough solution that they can maintain the emotional control to watch their community be brutalized with impunity?"

The most obvious solution is political involvement. In the 2011 Baltimore mayoral election, fewer than 14% of registered voters cast ballots (see page 6 of the following link). http://archive.baltimorecity.gov/portals/0/agencies/elections%20board/public%20downloads/2011-MAYORAL%20GENERAL%20%20ELECTION%20SOVC%20RPT.pdf

This percentage does not count people eligible to vote, but unregistered. Accordingly, it follows that a percentage even smaller than 13% of the electorate voted (probably in the single digits). Furthermore, exit polls consistently show that the people most perceived at risk of being injured by police (i.e., young, male, minority) disproportionately fail to vote. What this means, is that the people who are rioting about unfair treatment are the same people who are not participating politically in the issues they are protesting. Now, some obvious questions should present themselves to you: (1) what is the demographic makeup of people who vote in city elections; (2) do the police treat the voting demographic different than the non-voting demographic?

I know political involvement works. I've done it and seen the changes I desired reflected in my own city government.

#40 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 04:30 PM:

Further question: Why are these people not voting?

Is it apathy? Are there impediments to getting to the polls? Do they have time off of work to vote? Are there enough voting booths at polling stations? What are the queues like? Are there voter challenges or intimidation?

Or have they been convinced that voting won't do any good, and if so, how can we persuade them otherwise?

In other words, don't stop at "they don't vote". That's just the doorway into another set of questions and, probably, issues.

#41 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 04:35 PM:

Rene D. @39:

First, Baltimore is sufficiently Democratic that the general election was basically a foregone conclusion; the real choice in a mayoral race would have been in the primary election, where the turnout was significantly higher. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_mayoral_election,_2011 has some numbers.

Additionally, I wonder why a demographic who has never seen reason to trust the power structure or had a positive interaction with it might be leery about engaging with it? Perhaps seeing your friends beaten by police, or being harassed for walking down the street to your house, might make you less likely to trust that changing who sits at the top will help you in any way?

This suggests a question much like yours:

What effect does systematic mistreatment by and mistrust of the police have on a demographic's willingness to participate in political activity?

It would also be interesting to see how accessible the polling places in the relevant parts of Baltimore are, compared to those in wealthier parts of the city, and whether there has been widespread voter intimidation or disinformation. "They don't vote" seems to me more like a symptom than a cause, and to be edging toward victim-blaming.

#42 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 04:40 PM:

Albatross @9: First, please don't automatically link rioting and looting, or rioters and criminals. Chaotic situations can be occasions for opportunistic crime committed by persons of all colors, but the automatic pair-ups of rioting/looting and rioters/criminals are disproportionately applied to persons of color.

Second, killing innocent people out of hand spreads a lot more fear than rioting does. It's just not distributed evenly.

Third:

If you want people to support the police no matter what they do, getting most of the citizens scared of criminals is a pretty good way to do it. Rioting and looting is a *great* way to spread fear.
Maybe I'm missing something, but the only way I can see for that to be true is if you define "people" as "well-insulated white people living in mostly-white neighborhoods."

(We live in a very mixed neighborhood. When they held a neighborhood meeting about police violence, it was SRO, with people spilling out the doors.)

Fourth, the areas and demographic segments that will support the police no matter what are already scared of minorities, and it wasn't rioting that did that to them.

Fifth, all those worthy strategies you list -- coalition building, improved police oversight, changing laws that protect police misconduct, changing police guidelines and protocols, etc. -- have been pushed for years. Meanwhile, rates of police misconduct and violence against citizens have gone up. People aren't rioting and protesting because they can't think of anything better to do. They're rioting because the better things to do are being ignored.

And sixth, I don't feel I have the right to condemn the people who are rioting, because I'm not part of the population that's in danger of being stopped, frisked, beaten, tased, arrested on false charges or no charges, or shot out of hand.

===

Speaking of police guidelines, do you remember when tasers were introduced? They were supposed to be specialized nonlethal gear, used only in situations where police would otherwise have to use firearms. That was all worked out in advance.

In the years since then, tasers have increasingly been used to punish non-crimes like not complying fast enough, irritating the officer (sometimes just by existing), not having a sufficiently respectful affect, and being involved in a complicated situation that would take a while to figure out peacefully. Single taser jolts have escalated into lethal repeated taserings.

As I said, guidelines were already established. What was lacking was the political will to prosecute officers who used tasers abusively.

Political will is where riots and protest marches come in.

Remember a couple of presidential elections back, when the Republicans were clearly gearing up to do some Latino-bashing? It was that fear-spreading thing again. The Latino communities responded with some monster protests/demonstrations. They were united, well-organized, and very firm about their positions.

The Republicans' national campaign stopped Latino-bashing almost immediately.

American police forces have taken full advantage of the right wing's long campaign to convince white suburbanites that brown people and poor people are scary aliens. We've let them take away our right to peaceably assemble, use our public spaces, and commit speech acts in those spaces. We've let them dress up in tactical gear and play at being soldiers, which they are not and cannot be. We've accepted the absurd post-9/11 over-valorization of LEOs, which is a major factor in them not getting prosecuted when they screw up.

(When I was moderating Boing Boing, I was shocked to discover how many younger commenters absolutely believed that you're required to do anything a police officer tells you to do, and that police are entitled to punish you on the spot if you're noisy and/or disrespectful.)

And while all this has been going on, we've been getting news story after news story about people getting shot when they were unarmed, when they had their backs turned, when they were handcuffed, when they were lying face-down on the ground, when they weren't threatening anyone and weren't suspected of any wrongdoing. We've seen footage of them being knocked down, sucker-punched, beaten with clubs, pepper-sprayed, and tased. We've seen multiple studies about unmistakable racial bias in "stop and frisk" and "driving while black" incidents. We're not outraged, we're not even surprised, when video surveillance footage inexplicably disappears following alleged police violence.

Police departments all over the country have reacted to the public's growing outrage by doubling down on their bad attitude. Essentially, they're trying to renegotiate their role in American society, and the new role they have in mind is a very bad idea. We have a structural problem. Normal channels and procedures are not sufficient.

Riots and protests aren't just scary urban people briefly seen on the evening news. They're also a strong message sent outside normal channels, and they can be a piece of serious political push-back.

Just consider the possibility, okay?

#43 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 04:51 PM:

Priscilla King@26: "People in Baltimore should try harder to think like Martin Luther King."

The Martin Luther King who wrote the "Letter From A Birmingham Jail?" Wherein he wrote, "You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations…I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate?"

I'm pretty sure that, if Martin Luther King were still an activist, there would be more demonstrations, not fewer. You mistake Martin Luther King's (and Gandhi's) non-violence if you believe that they would be passive in the face of these police abuses.

#44 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 04:59 PM:

Meantime, 1,000 National Guard troops are being sent to Baltimore, a curfew has been imposed, and the Orioles game will be played in an empty stadium. The television reporting calls the protests "riots," almost ignoring the vast majority of peaceful protesters.

I'd like to suggest something else that could be brought to Baltimore that might be more effective: justice.

Nah. More troops, that's the ticket.

#45 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:03 PM:

Rene D. @39

It looks as though that's a strategy that people have tried in some of the towns near to Ferguson. The news reports from Parma and Kinloch suggest that, whatever its merits, it's a less straightforward matter than one might hope.

#46 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:31 PM:

I am a white woman. I've driven through the very same areas that are currently under strict curfew with NG soldiers patrolling. I can say that section of Baltimore is direly poor, with only a small hint of urban renewal at the very edges of Sandtown. No grocery stores, lots of abandoned and empty buildings, lots of "no playing" signs, lots of trash and emptiness. (My first time through was on the coldest day of 2010, and no one was outside. It was eerie.) The intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues is a busy location, with a transit hub and several municipal offices in the area. It's also adjacent to an old industrial zone, where there are almost no working industries left.

I feel for those people trapped in those neighborhoods. If I could, I'd drive up there and join them in cleaning up after the rioting. There has to be something better to do than sympathize, than promise better things later.

I agree: those police officers belonged in jail as soon as Freddie Gray was taken to the hospital. There is no excuse for that kind of policing, and the mayor is only making things worse by trying to ignore that.

I keep seeing that beautiful boulevard -- Monroe Street -- nearly silent, overcome with weeds, trash, and empty homes -- classic Baltimore brownstones with marble steps. There has to be something we can do to set this right.

#47 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:36 PM:

A G-streetview trip through Sandtown shows what is familiar to anyone driving through certain parts of the city: rows of the famous white marble steps leading up to boarded up doorways. Large parts of Balto. are all but abandoned. In some of these "neighborhoods" it's a wonder there are enough people left to riot.

And I don't get into the mentality of rioting, much less looting, so I'm not going there at all. But I notice that the Sun article traces this back through two mayoral regimes, the first of which was brought to an end by a classic low-grade abuse-of-office case. I have the sense that the passion for the city on the part of the mayor's office is lacking: I cannot imagine "Willy Don" letting things come to this pass.

#48 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:42 PM:

Elliott, #25: That's a good point. Pen a lot of people into a small area and make them afraid for their lives -- that's a really good way to ignite a violent response, whether you intend to or not.

Rene, #39: In addition to what abi said, notice also the huge push toward voter-suppression laws since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Those in power know that if the "wrong kind of people" ever start voting en masse, their ass is grass -- so they're working as hard as they can on a preemptive strike, to make sure that can't ever happen.

Teresa, #42: And another piece I think you're overlooking -- cop "reality shows", where the viewer gets to see carefully-edited incidents of police dealing with violent offenders over and over again. I had no idea such things existed myself, but my favorite hot-wings place sometimes has that on the TV, and it's simply appalling.

#49 ::: Jeff R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:42 PM:

Raven@44: Exactly how could justice be brought?

There's scarce hope for the legal kind here: even though you, me, and every stray cat and dog in town knows full well the man was murdered there's never going to be enough for a jury to call it, even if the prosecutors and judges wouldn't be rigging it for the police, which they would be. And even if some set of miracles made this not so, it still moves too slow to help.

So what other kinds of justice are bringable? Vigilante? Both problematic and impractical.

What else could be brought, and by whom? Who has any justice to spare?

#50 ::: Jonathan Adams ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:53 PM:

I lived in Baltimore (near Howard & Centre St, right on the path of at least part of the riot) for about a year and a half, up until early 2008, right before the downturn hit and things started to get even more grim than they already were.

The Mondawmin Mall was a local place I shopped at on a regular basis, and was filled with good shops and good food. It definitely had the feel of a close-knit center of the local community.

It's pretty believable to me that the police over-reacted to a perceived threat, caused schools to be let out early, and cut off the ability to get out of the area of a bunch of school kids they pester on a regular basis anyway, and in so doing lit off a powder-keg of badness.

Property destruction is bad, but so is an untenable situation made more untenable daily by people who are supposedly protecting the common good.

I do wonder how much misinterpretation of social media happens by all of the various "social media watchers", police and otherwise... Trying to understand what young people mean or are referring to, seems particularly fraught with the possibility of error; they spend a lot of time and energy trying not to be easily understood by outsiders (in my experience).

#51 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 05:54 PM:

For those who (like me) were very interested in exactly where in Baltimore stuff has been happening, there's an annotated Google Map at the Baltimore Sun.

The neighborhood I lived in as a grad. student seems unaffected so far, even the areas near it that were rumored as "bad" when I lived there. Still, the zoo is not really an impenetrable barrier, and were I still in grad. school I'd at least be pricing Amtrak tickets north.

#52 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 06:08 PM:

I know this is totally unrealistic but I want to say it anyway. First, fire EVERY SINGLE COP in the country. In a lot of places, things would be more peaceful for a while - look at what happened with that police "slowdown" in New York. It seems like the cops have become the most dangerous gang in town.

Second, I have long thought that we need a completely new model for keeping order in cities, much like Robert Peel invented a new model in the UK in the 1810's. It could even be a bunch of us old curmudgeons yelling "get off my lawn" at teens, and it might be better than what we have. For all the cop shows on TV, very little of the work is the exciting detective stuff. For example, most murders are either completely obvious or never solved. Make all or most drugs legal, end all "for-profit" prisons as someone earlier suggested. And deal with so-called white collar crime severely. Why is it a kid can end up with hard time for stealing a car worth $1000, but a banker or stockbroker who cons millions walks away? It sets a bad example for the country.

Yes, we need some system, but the current one is so totally broken.

#53 ::: Rene D. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 06:09 PM:

Lorax:

First, Baltimore is sufficiently Democratic that the general election was basically a foregone conclusion; the real choice in a mayoral race would have been in the primary election, where the turnout was significantly higher. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_mayoral_election,_2011 has some numbers.
The numbers from the wikipedia page don't change anything of my analysis. They indicate, as you state, that more people voted for a mayoral candidate in the primary than in the election. However, the number of people who voted in the primary still remains a tiny fraction of the overall electorate.
Additionally, I wonder why a demographic who has never seen reason to trust the power structure or had a positive interaction with it might be leery about engaging with it? Perhaps seeing your friends beaten by police, or being harassed for walking down the street to your house, might make you less likely to trust that changing who sits at the top will help you in any way?
My problem with this viewpoint is that it turns the residents into powerless victims who need other people, from outside Baltimore, to fix their problems. One vocal and influential critic of police abuse, Photography Is Not a Crime, was started by a minority male after being abused by police. Another obvious example would be Martin Luther King, Jr. Activism works. Baltimore residents have the power of the vote. They are not using it. I also do not accept your unsupported assertion that people living in Baltimore "have never seen reason" to trust the police. Did you do any research prior to making the assertion to confirm that police mistreatment has a long tradition in Baltimore?
"They don't vote" seems to me more like a symptom than a cause, and to be edging toward victim-blaming.
I do not view it as an either/or situation. The questions I posed intentionally raise the possibility that the voting demographic is putting its own desires ahead of the non-voting demographic. And, those with power typically act to preserve their power. As far as blaming the victims. Sure. You seem to believe that the victims' choices cannot have any influence on their victimization. Logically, that's nonsense. Why do we teach college-age women to go to bars with trusted friends? We are trying to promote behavior that makes victimization less likely. I am not saying that the victims of police abuse in Baltimore (or other locations) asked for the abuse (just as women don't ask to be victimized). Rather, people living in Baltimore have methods at their disposal to change their situation that do not include destroying their own city.
#54 ::: Jeff R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 06:14 PM:

@52: You realize that this will involve busting a union, right?

More or less my if-I-were-dictator solution, too. F the police, where F stands for Fire, every last one. Hire civilian contractors with a non-renewable 2-year contract for the interim, and build and entirely new system. Previous experience is a disqualifier, period.

#55 ::: Rene D. ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 06:15 PM:

praisegod barebones @ 45:

It looks as though that's a strategy that people have tried in some of the towns near to Ferguson. The news reports from Parma and Kinloch suggest that, whatever its merits, it's a less straightforward matter than one might hope.
The reports coming from Kinloch are truly bizarre and frightening. I'm glad other people are paying attention and that the media is covering the issue. Cockroaches hate light.

#56 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 06:25 PM:

Jeff R @54: That's a good point, and in general I'm hostile to any effort to bust any union.

Police unions, however, have generally held themselves apart from the union movement as a whole. Politically, they constitute an entirely distinct labor movement. The American culture wars have put all of organized labor except police-and-mostly-firefighters on one side, and police very much on the other.

Since police unions can't be arsed to stand with the rest of labor when it counts, I don't see any reason to let them use the rest of the labor movement as human shields. My sympathy for unions absolutely does not extend to any police union anywhere, and that's not a bit inconsistent. Solidarity is the core of unionism and police have never respected that.

#57 ::: inge ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 06:59 PM:

My two cents on "why riots":

Hardly anyone wants a riot. These things flare up from the dynamic of a situation. They could just as well have stayed peaceful protests, (and everyone will say that's what they planned to have, really) but someone, something, somewhere, took a wrong turn and a volatile situation exploded and suddenly smashing things feels the natural and reasonable thing to do.

But exactly because no one wants a riot, these send, as Teresa said, a very strong message: "This is broken". So the question "How do we fix it" becomes inevitable.

There might be fixes of the headdesk type, and there will be Tiananmen squares, there might be Stonewalls, and people organizing and making change happen, there will be power losing the map and opening the Wall. Most often, looking back from a few decades distance, all of the above happened in response, and something changed.

So, it's not the riot that determines the outcome: It's the follow-up. But without a riot, there would be no follow up.

Finally, why not vote? As Treebeard said, "no one is on my side nowadays".

#58 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 07:01 PM:

Jeff R@49:"Exactly how could justice be brought?"

The officers who broke Freddie Gray's back could be arrested and charged, for a start. That's within either the mayor or governor's authority. Then the state lege could take up police reform.

#59 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 07:04 PM:

Magenta Griffith@52: we could also fix the economy, and make sure that the benefits reach the poor black neighborhoods.

I'd like a pony, too.

#60 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 07:13 PM:

Oh, and fix the media. Cut down on "It bleeds, it leads." Reporting massive non-violent protests would probably go a long way to moderating public responses to protests and perhaps even reduce the temptation to violent protest.

That's rather a lot of ponies, isn't it? But it is time to get started.

#61 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 07:43 PM:

Inspired by something I saw on Twitter: if you think riots never change anything, does the name Stonewall ring a bell? There's a reason the big Pride march in New York City is on the anniversary of a riot.

That riot was caused by oppressed people fighting back against one in a long series of repressive acts by the New York City police.

#62 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 07:45 PM:

Lady Kay @32: As I said, I'm from Chicago (and from a ground-level organizer family, AND I grew up surrounded by black people), so I have a somewhat cynical reflex to remember all the times our cops have thrown the first bomb or brick (deliberately, while dressed as bystanders) to give themselves a chance to, as Mayor Dick Daley said, "Preserve disorder."

If I take a deep breath and cause myself to think charitable thoughts about cops who -- mistaken as I may consider them -- were probably, in the moment, feeling attacked from all sides and in honest fear that some kind of armed uprising was about to occur … well, then. From that kind of point of view, I can make their actions look logical by assuming that everyone they encountered from the moment they got out of their squad cars in riot gear was presumptively a terrorist and violent revolutionary.

If you arrive somewhere you've been told a paroxysm of violence is about to occur, and you've convinced yourself that everyone you see is there to do that, well, you tend to react first with overwhelming force and only worry about side-effects later.

It's like that story going around about the Swedish cops (on vacation) who took down someone starting a fight on the subway -- quickly, efficiently, and as soon as he was handcuffed they sat him up and tended to his comfort and asked him if he was ok. That's an entirely different model of how to interact with a suspect than almost any of our city cops are currently using.

It is, as I said, an "enemy combatant" mindset, where anyone not already a bleeding victim on the ground when you arrive is most likely a zombie vampire pirate mind-controlled psychotic axe-murderer, and any action you take against them is ipso-facto justified.

Except that that's presumption of guilt, which in theeeeeeory is not how our legal system works ...

#63 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 08:54 PM:

I think it's worth pointing to Maryland's "law enforcement bill of rights", passed in 1974. Legally, the officers who killed Freddie Grey can't even be interviewed until ten days after they've been notified of the investigation. That's tomorrow, at the earliest. The ACLU has been calling for the law to be changed. It doesn't seem likely, though, even now.

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 09:55 PM:

Vicki #61: AIUI, The Stonewall rioters were both nearly all white, and mostly middle and upper-class. That is, their only "mark" was their gender and sexual behavior¹, and it was the climax of the (miscalled) Sixties, which had popularized the idea of sexual freedom and non-standard personal presentation.

WRT the current situation: Police forces around the country (and the FBI) have a long and well-attested history of provoking or outright creating these riots -- always on the black folks' own turf. Notice that the destruction never spreads to the well-off side of town -- because regardless of provocation, the black folks know that if they set foot over there, they'll be facing the National Guard with automatic weapons and shoot-to-kill orders.

So... they end up destroying what their own people have built up. Remember Coates' article on how the vast majority of what black folks have built has been taken away by whites? This is just another of the ways for TPTB to "deal with" those blacks who do work hard to build a community and try to raise themselves out of poverty: Oh, you thought you were going to open a store, or just work in one, and save up enough to send your kids to college? Too bad about your store getting trashed every few years. Maybe you should try living someplace else -- oh wait, you can't.

Pardon my bitterness, but I've been seeing this this cycle run for a while. And if anything, it's getting worse rather than better, as TPTB entrench their power and privilege. (See also: Gun laws, the So-Called War On Drugs, and disenfranchisement of felons....)

¹ By the accounts I've heard, it was the drag queens who were the real force there.

#65 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:20 PM:

David, about Stonewall: really not, really not.

#66 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2015, 11:32 PM:

David 64: AIUI, The Stonewall rioters were both nearly all white, and mostly middle and upper-class.

Nope. Mostly young, mostly POC. Marsha Johnson was definitely neither white nor middle clase! Look here, for example. I count two, maybe three white boys in that picture.

This was on the night of the original riot. Stonewall wasn't primarily frequented by white gays at that time. The white gays got into it later, to be sure, which may be what you're thinking of; they're the ones who organized groups along the lines of anti-Vietnam War groups...and of course started marginalizing people of color. But the ones who fought back on the "night the sissies fought back" were mostly not white.

And btw, at the time killing snttbgf was considered pretty much fair game. All you had to do was say "he came on to me," and you were off the hook most places.

#67 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:43 AM:

Rene D. @55

'The reports coming from Kinloch are truly bizarre and frightening'

Do they not, at least to some extent, shake your confidence in the idea that the conditions causing riots can be voted away? (And did you notice Elliott Mason's point about the riots arising out of the way police treated school-children, who are, among other things, too young to vote?)

Idem, @56 'Did you do any research prior to making the assertion to confirm that police mistreatment has a long tradition in Baltimore?'

There's some flexibility in what counts as a long tradition, but I know enough to know that 'rough ride' tactics go back at least a decade, and that the city ha made at least two multi-million dollar payouts to arrestees who have ended up paralyzed when treated in the same way as Freddie Gray.

Do you have any reason for thinking that police mistreatment is only a relatively recent phenomenon in Baltimore.

#68 ::: Rene D. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 01:41 AM:

praisegod barebonese @ #67:

Do they [reports from Kinloch] not, at least to some extent, shake your confidence in the idea that the conditions causing riots can be voted away? (And did you notice Elliott Mason's point about the riots arising out of the way police treated school-children, who are, among other things, too young to vote?)

A couple of points. First, you assume I have confidence in success because I advocate political activism. As I have stated previously in this thread, people in power will fight to maintain power. Voting out an entrenched system in relatively small communities like Kinloch is hard. Voting it out of a larger community like Baltimore with an even more deeply embedded culture of corruption will be even harder. That being said, I believe the best route to reform is through political activism. Change imposed from outside (e.g., DOJ consent decree) will not last unless there is the political backbone in Baltimore to make the reforms last.

I noticed Elliott's point. I don't credit it particularly highly (neither am I assuming he is sowing FUD) as I have not seen news reports confirming all aspects of his description. If this type of abuse has been going on for a decade (which I don't doubt), then many people who were previously school-aged children are now eligible to vote. They're not. Does it not trouble you that the Democratic party, which has an incredible ability to "get out the votes" in areas where elections are contested, makes no effort to increase voter turnout in the cesspool called Baltimore? To me it smacks of putting the party above the welfare of people. Hopefully the events in Ferguson, NYC, and Baltimore will cause Blacks to reconsider the belief that the Democratic party has the best interests of Blacks at heart (please note that I am not saying the Republican party is such a party).

There's some flexibility in what counts as a long tradition, but I know enough to know that 'rough ride' tactics go back at least a decade, and that the city ha[s] made at least two multi-million dollar payouts to arrestees who have ended up paralyzed when treated in the same way as Freddie Gray.

Do you have any reason for thinking that police mistreatment is only a relatively recent phenomenon in Baltimore.


When I wrote "long tradition," I was thinking generations (i.e., back to 1950 or so). I have not identified any sources providing information on police abuse going anywhere near that far back. In the absence of evidence (either way), I make no assumptions regarding the prevalence of pre-existing police abuse.
#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 01:52 AM:

Rene D @68:

While you're calling for and dispensing judgment on the evidence around police behavior in Baltimore, do you have evidence about the reasons for lack of voter participation?

Do you know the voting statistics for the area, going back in time? Do you know, with evidence to back it up, why people don't vote—if they don't—in those areas?

I'm going to be honest here. An unsupported "people don't vote" strikes me, personally, as victim-blaming. I learned (here, later than I should have) that sometimes people don't vote for actual reasons, and understanding those reasons is a better way to get them to consider voting than just yelling at them.

So. Can you unpack what you know, what you have evidence for, and what you assume for the current and historical voting issues in Baltimore? Because I don't, so I'd welcome some useful, fact-based input before I draw any conclusions.

(Not that it's really my place to draw conclusions, by the way, as a white woman living quite far from the center of things.)

#70 ::: Jeff R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 02:15 AM:

Raven@58, show arrests that everyone knows will never end with convictions is pretty weaksauce substantive justice, and a step in the wrong direction procedural-justice-wise.

#71 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:54 AM:

Who owns those slums? There are businesses run there by black folks, but I'd like to know how many of them own their land and how many rent. My suspicion is the profits leave via rental.

I say this because it makes rioting reasonable. It's become clear that to a large number of white people--maybe a plurality, maybe more--black lives don't matter. Property does.

So when you threaten someone's property--someone who doesn't care one little bit about your life or anything in it--you are finally speaking to someone with an interest in the discussion.

Trying to find a place for your stuff. That's what we're all trying to do.

#72 ::: James Harvey ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:24 AM:

I have very little to add to TNH's masterpiece @42, other than to reemphasise this point:

We've let them dress up in tactical gear and play at being soldiers, which they are not and cannot be. We've accepted the absurd post-9/11 over-valorization of LEOs, which is a major factor in them not getting prosecuted when they screw up.

We have a very different model of policing in the UK (necessarily, because the police are unarmed here), but what we have seen is entirely analogous behaviour to the US when the police are allowed to indulge in paramilitary fantasies with balaclavas over their heads. Given that police are armed as a matter of course in the US, and that they have been expensively tooled up by the DoD post 911, I suspect your problem is much, much worse.

We probably don't have quite the same level of "valorisation of LEOs" that you do: but we see it elsewhere. The NHS and state education in the UK are wonderful things, and I hesitate to compare them to US law enforcement, but we have seen that it is impossible to criticise these institutions in the UK without going through a mantra about "inspirational teachers" and "hardworking nurses". All the problems are problems of government, of management, of leadership. While these things may be (and in my view are) true, it also comes down to individual police officers shooting people in the back, or individual health practitioners abrogating their vows of care. That moral responsibility cannot be avoided.

It seems to me that this sort of political rhetoric, divorced from reality and insulating people from the consequences of their actions, is a very real toxin.

#73 ::: Jeff Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:24 AM:

I don't know why people in Baltimore don't vote, just that they don't. It isn't because of voter suppression, which so far as I remember has only been tried once and was probably not too successful. (A bizarre attempt, a robocall that came in on election day afternoon saying "I'm calling to let everyone know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful. Our goals have been met. The polls were correct and we took it back. We're OK. Relax. Everything is fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations and thank you." The media quickly denounced it and the responsible campaign manager and consultant were both found guilty in court. I got one of the calls and basically remember just staring quizzically at the phone.)

Anyway, I hardly ever have to stand in line at the polls, just walk in, sign my name, vote, and walk out. The few other people I see are generally about as old as I am -- rarely do I see young voters at either my polling place or any others I drive by. (We have many polling places, and many people willing to drive you to yours if you need help.)

The only Maryland study I remember was a purely demographic one, saying that older people voted more than younger, higher income more than lower income, college educated more than non-college educated, white more than non-white. It didn't go into reasons, but said that from the combination of all these factors, turnout in Baltimore city was lower than in all the Maryland counties. (Baltimore city is not in a county. Maryland has 24 subdivisions, 23 counties and Baltimore City.)

What other anecdotal info can I give you?

We Baltimoreans get a lot of jury duty notices, because there are so many trials and so many residents are ineligible, having been convicted of felonies. And I'm often selected to serve. An average trial for me (but not necessarily typical of the entire system) involves maybe one other white juror, a black defendant, and a white police officer. And a mediocre assistant state's attorney who doesn't really prove her or his case. Nonetheless, guilty, always guilty. The last two times I even argued passionately for not guilty, to little success -- once I managed to at least get a couple charges determined "not guilty," the other time I folded under pressure. The black jurors wanted to punish the black defendants, and often accepted every single word of the police testimony. A friend who moved to Baltimore from Detroit says that in Detroit race is the most important thing, but in Baltimore it's class. That seems to be what I'm seeing in the jury room. I can't know, but I don't think the juries I've been on would be too interested in convicting police officers for doing whatever they "had" to do to lower-class criminals.

In Baltimore, the police and fire unions have a lot of political power; the city government rarely stands up to them. (Occasionally to the fire union.)

The link abi has at #3 leads to many good things. The long essay "In Defense of Looting" is definitely an interesting read. One of the things I took away from it concerns "How can they trash their own neighborhood?" And it's maybe that they don't feel about their neighborhood the way that I feel about my neighborhood. That it doesn't give them anything that makes it feel like "theirs." That a neighborhood is just another in a long list of things they don't have.

#74 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:25 AM:

Laertes @56:
Since police unions can't be arsed to stand with the rest of labor when it counts, I don't see any reason to let them use the rest of the labor movement as human shields. My sympathy for unions absolutely does not extend to any police union anywhere, and that's not a bit inconsistent. Solidarity is the core of unionism and police have never respected that.

I come at it from a different angle: if those of us who want unions to exist and be strong don't (pardon the phrase) police the union movement ourselves, the worst examples will be used against us.

As, indeed, they already are.

#75 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:54 AM:

There are still children in Baltimore who are unable to get to school, and depend on those schools for the only substantial meal they will get today. If anyone here would like to help put that right, you can donate here. If you can't donate, perhaps you could consider sharing this link on social media under the hashtag #BaltimoreLunch.

#76 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 06:17 AM:

Jeff Smith @73:

You say that there isn't voter suppression in Baltimore, and then you all but crack my eardrums with it. Right here:

We Baltimoreans get a lot of jury duty notices, because there are so many trials and so many residents are ineligible, having been convicted of felonies. And I'm often selected to serve. An average trial for me (but not necessarily typical of the entire system) involves maybe one other white juror, a black defendant, and a white police officer. And a mediocre assistant state's attorney who doesn't really prove her or his case. Nonetheless, guilty, always guilty.

(Emphasis added)

Long-term readers of this blog will know that I have views about the interaction between incarceration and disenfranchisement. They're not changing with exposure to more information over time.

Although the routine conviction of a good part of the community for crimes that remove the right to vote isn't what we usually mean by "voter suppression", it certainly walks and quacks like that particular duck.

#77 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 06:32 AM:

Having said the above, I see that Maryland has just now restored the voting rights of felons who have completed their sentences, parole, and probation. Bill signed into law four days ago, takes effect on 1 July.

Interesting to see what, if anything, that does to future voting patterns.

#78 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 06:41 AM:

which so far as I remember has only been tried once and was probably not too successful.

See, what I remember from when I was living there is that Baltimore was ground zero for deceptive untraceable fliers going up in poorer black communities, though actually looking into it the most recent incident of that was in 2002 with a flier that said:

Come out to vote on November 6.

Before you come to vote make sure you pay your parking tickets, motor vehicle tickets, overdue rent, and most important any warrants.
(In 2002, November 5th was election day; the 6th was a Wednesday)

I also remember stories of other years' fliers including bits "advising" people to be sure that no one they lived with or any close relative had outstanding warrants or tickets. And I don't remember this being a one-time story. I am glad that this tactic has apparently not persisted and that voter suppression efforts moved on to traceable (and therefore prosecutable) robocalls.

#79 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 07:13 AM:

Bruce Baugh #65: Very well, I stand corrected.

#80 ::: Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 07:36 AM:

@76: I don't have much hope of it being passed, but I think that the US Constitution needs a voting rights amendment, with

1) no disenfranchisement clause
2) no voter suppression clause
3) no gerrymandering clause

#81 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 08:40 AM:

Another source (not where I got my info) for a non-police view of what happened to start the Mondawmin mall/Douglas HS teen "riot": http://www.upworthy.com/one-teachers-facebook-post-describes-what-she-saw-baltimore-cops-doing-before-the-riots-broke-out

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 08:55 AM:

Let me note here that Abi is perfectly correct, Maryland is one of the states that disenfranchises people who have been convicted of felonies. There is, AFAICR, a near-perfect correlation between such states and membership in the Confederacy, though not all of the traitor states do this (Georgia, for example, does not but Florida does), and Maryland was not a Confederate state though it wanted to be (its state anthem is a complaint about the 'tyranny' of Abe Lincoln's preventing it from seceding).

What such laws have in common is the desire to suppress the black vote without fucking saying so since, if you take a look at the statistics, there are a disproportionate number of black people (and, these days, Latinos) in prison for felonies (mainly drug offences).

A real long-term solution to the problem involves both reform to the current loony drug laws and a readiness to accept that black Americans should have more than a symbolic place at the table. Because, when you ask young black people whether they vote, and I have on a regular basis, what you get in response, is a long litany of statements of frustration with the system, including a deeply embedded belief that it is incapable of change for the better. Now, I've seen it change for the better, but when I hear young people talking about it not being capable of change I'm hearing them say that they cannot get a break regardless of what they do or how hard they try, and I cannot believe that every last one of them is an unreconstructed thug because, frankly, they're not.

#83 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 09:13 AM:

abi@77: It looks like the law took effect in 2007. It may be a bit early to tell how much it's affected the average election (since voter turnout can vary for lots of reasons-- 2008, for instance, was a high-turnout election generally), but someone may have data on this.

Here's a state-by-state breakdown of voting rights for persons convicted of a felony, as of about a year ago.

And here's an article noting recent changes (up into 2015). The general trend since 1996 in most states has been to widen voting rights, but after 2008 we've seen a bit of a reversal, with 3 states (Washington, Delaware, and Wyoming) widening them, and 4 states (Florida, Iowa, Tennessee, and South Carolina) narrowing them.

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 09:15 AM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @83:

You're right. I can't see how I missed that, except that I was skimming quickly. Looked at month and day, not year.

#85 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 09:39 AM:

One reason why few people in Baltimore vote may just be bitter experience. If nothing seems to ever change despite changing the people at the top, it's not so hard to see why lots of voters don't bother going to the polls.

#86 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 09:41 AM:

#82 ::: Fragano Ledgister. Thank you for pointing out the lyrics to "Oh Maryland, My Maryland". I really had not known that! It starts as praise for fighting against Britain (American Revolution), then says that Maryland is too pacific and ignoring VA's call to arms (doesn't make it clear at this point) and ends with "Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!"

It builds up slowly and until that last stanza you can believe that it refers to 1812 and Britain.

#87 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 10:05 AM:

By the way, 2014 was a close election for governor and so was 2002 (in both of these cases a Republican won, which is not expected). Higher turnout in Baltimore would likely lead to a higher number of votes for the Democratic candidate.

The 2014 Republican winner has explicitly declared that the urban areas (Baltimore, maybe Annapolis and the DC suburbs) are getting an unfair amount of the money and attention from the state of Maryland and he is trying to redirect resources to the rural parts of Maryland. One of the ways he is planning to do that is to fail to spend school funds that have been appropriated.

School is back in session in Baltimore.

#88 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 10:51 AM:

#80 ::: Stewart

I think ID (not just ID for voting) should be a right. Not having ID limits people's lives a *lot*, and it's harder for poor people to get ID.

#71 ::: John A Arkansawyer

I think some degree of respect for property is actually a respect for quality of life. People in a neighborhood are worse off if the stores are gone, even if the stores were rented or franchises and the rents and profits are going elsewhere.

#90 ::: Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 11:18 AM:

@88: There's a cultural difference between the US and the UK. Requiring people to have ID (national ID cards) tends to be looked at askance in the UK - it carries connotations of fascism ("papers please") or Stalinism.

The problem with lack of ID in the UK is not I think to do with voting (polling cards are sent out by post), but with access to financial products - the effect of anti-money laundering regulations is that it can be difficult to open accounts without a passport or driving licence. (It varies considerably between companies.)

But you partly answer the question as to how one writes a no voter suppression rule - no form of ID may be required to exercise the franchise that is not freely and readily available to all eligible voters.

#91 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 11:34 AM:

There was a question upthread as to how far back the 'tradition' of police harassment goes back in Baltimore.

Here's something that might speak to that issue.

#92 ::: venus ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 11:43 AM:

I'm a little startled, I guess, at the way people are talking about voting solving this problem.

The problem is this: Modern America does not see black men as human. I'm sorry, but there it is. That is the problem.

You cannot change that by voting for a Democrat or even 'against any Republican'. Why? Because plenty of Democrats don't believe black men are people either.

The ID laws, the lack of education, the poverty, the corruption on high--those are symptoms. Change a law to allow people to vote without IDs again, fine, but how will that make a police officer not gun you down? It won't. The underlying belief remains and so will continue to show up and be implemented.

The reason the mayor didn't arrest the police is that they haven't ever *had* to arrest the police before. All these 100+ other times the police treated black people like animals, nobody rioted, nobody [important] noticed. Why would the admin think anything had changed?

Changing the laws is a fine idea, in theory, but if the people implementing the laws are sadists who get off on hurting whoever they can--well, that's not going to make a difference. Before thinking legal change will help, I would recommend the police report filed against a black man in Missouri for assaulting some officers. What had he done? Bled on their uniforms while they beat him.

That's the problem. Until the underlying social belief changes, no amount of voting or law will make a difference. That's why voting in black politicians has caused massive small government exodus in those towns.

We MUST change the underlying social belief.

OK, jeez, now I've depressed myself. But I just feel like--I think it's important to say it outloud. What the real problem is. Why the other changes haven't worked.

#93 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 11:45 AM:

Owing my bias here. My high school classmates are police and firefighters in Baltimore County, Prince George's, Howard and Anne Arundel. Also, used car lot owners, cashiers, nurses, medical salespeople and a few federal government employee. A very few lawyers and judges.

Police officer is a good job. They don't choose it in order to beat up a kid in the back of a van. They choose it because they can make a difference with common sense and hard work, and not a ton of book learning.

#94 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 11:55 AM:

venus @92:

All this is true, but what can we do about it?

Voting, at least, we can enable, with the hope that votes mean officials who represent the voters, who pass laws that stop systematically robbing black citizens of their property and livelihoods, who lean on police forces to discipline or fire the officers who abuse their position.

I'm hoping that more black people with power and money translates into a broadening of people's definitions of what a person with power and money looks like. What an American, a fellow human, an "us" rather than a "them" looks like.

Part of that is that I don't know of another way to do it. Ideas?

Lady Kay @93:

I think it is important to note that not all cops are abusive or racist. But it's also important to note that those who are seem to have the power to continue doing what they do.

It's not unlike tech, where not everyone I work with is actually a sexist—but the sexists I have worked with have felt free to express it with abandon.

#95 ::: Jeff R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:14 PM:

Abi, it's not really that important. Every cop who participates the the Blue Wall, or who allows that culture of coverup to persist is fully complicit in the worst crimes of their most abusive and racist brothers and sisters. And that's pretty darn near all of them.

#96 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:16 PM:

And in police departments, officers who act as whistleblowers against their genuinely-bad-apple compatriots (people who vent blatantly racist sentiments, people who ADMIT to enforcing unequally because of race, people who actively and consciously decide to beat up certain suspects because they deserve it) tend to get extremely negative blowback, professional and personal, up to and including incarceration or personal danger to themselves and their families.

If we can make it so that ALL police officers involved in suspect injuries or homicides are investigated HONESTLY within ONE WEEK of any incident occurring, a lot of this would get better.

But no police department anywhere in the US is interested in making that happen.

And the cultural side of all those departments is "go along to get along, stick with your buddies and not with the scum."

#97 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:17 PM:

Lady Kay @93: I know they all think of themselves as good people. Maybe some of them even are. But good people can profit unwittingly from massively evil systems, and good people can, through their reasonable actions, act to support great evil.

The only way out is for actual good people in all these departments to be the first ones speaking out, and speaking out LOUDLY, for all possible misconduct to be fairly investigated.

#98 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:23 PM:

Elliott, one good police department. However this requires a *very* good police chief, and I don't know how you'd find more of them.

#99 ::: venus ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:33 PM:

I think the recent strides in gay marriage are a good place to look for answers. In the past, gay men were wandering rapists/pedophiles. Lesbians were confused/needed the right man. I noticed that the tide shifted when 'normal' middle-class suburban people began to say things like, 'Well, my brother is gay, and he's all right,' or 'My neighbors are lesbians and they're very nice people.' Now, that's just my perception of how things began to change--but if smart, thoughtful people began looking hard at the gains and how they happened, that could help.

I think there is a tendency to underestimate the emotional importance of stories, TV shows, actors, people that society relates to. If we want to change the social rules, then we must rethink how we depict each other, how we interact with each other.

I also believe that we, as a culture, must begin to record and more broadly share the realities of what happens. Before, I'd get into an argument about police brutality with suburban friends. They didn't get it, because their experience is so different. Now, a whole bunch of white people have watched the Walter Scott video. That's a painful way to wake up to the reality that many of our fellow Americans experience, but having read a lot of shocked, empathic responses, I think it works.

#100 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:44 PM:

A claim that police are especially violent towards black protestors, and that protest organizers are advised to put white people in front.

Anyone know whether this (either of the claims) is generally true?

#101 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:44 PM:

abi @ 94:
"I'm hoping that more black people with power and money translates into a broadening of people's definitions of what a person with power and money looks like."

That's the path that has worked for the LBG community and which seems like it might be working for the Trans* community. Of course, it's a lot harder for someone to learn that they're related to a person of color than it is to discover that aunt cyllan just came out of the closet. There are also fewer structural barriers working to prevent LGBTQ people from gaining power and money than there are those working to prevent impoverished, primarily people of color from gaining that same money and power.

I think some of those structures are starting to shake at least a little, and I hope that each success adds another crack in the foundation, but it seems too slow. Maybe slow is the only way it will take hold, but when we're looking at the number of lives lost, slow seems inadequate.

Things that I am trying to do:
* Make sure my daughter attends a school where there are a number of african-american male authority figures. (She does, and they are awesome.)
* Discuss racial issues and news stories with my child.
* Actively listen to my friends who are non-Caucasian and recognize that they have different perspectives than I do.
* Vote
* Support appropriate charities and causes
* Continue to discard "run for office" as a viable option for an introverted bisexual pagn; toy with the idea anyway
* Speak up when and where I can.

It doesn't seem like it's enough, and I welcome other suggestions.

#102 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:50 PM:

Stewart #90: There's a cultural difference between the US and the UK. Requiring people to have ID (national ID cards) tends to be looked at askance in the UK - it carries connotations of fascism ("papers please") or Stalinism.

That didn't used to be a difference! AIUI, the turning point was the crackdown on civil liberties after 9/11.

#103 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:55 PM:

re 92: Venus, the mayor is black; her predecessor was black; almost everyone in the last mayoral race was black. The police commissioner is black. I don't know what the racial makeup of the Baltimore police is now (it had gotten up to 43% back in O'Malley's day) but to quote somewhat dated Wash. Post editorial about matters in PG County, "Neither black officers nor black elected officials have solved the problem of police misconduct." That was over a decade ago, and nobody thinks things have gotten better.

This is one of the maps we need to be looking at. It's a bit hard to interpret because the scope is broad (Laurel, which is way outside the city, shows up in the lower left corner of the map) and the road network is a bit hard to see under all the dots, but it comes down to each red dot being 25 whites and each blue 25 blacks. The area of the rioting is at the right end of the left blue splotch, a little ways out of downtown. The rest of that blue area, heading off west, is a mostly middle class area that was block-busted in the late '50s and onward. (The superintense blue spot is the city detention center.) The other blue splotch has at its left-center the other big area of old, run-down, largely vacant tiny rowhouses, also all-black, but again as you head out from the center you hit middle class neighborhoods. And you see the large northeast mixed race area, and the other similar stripe down through Pigtown and Carollton Ridge, and then there's the old established white area running north and the hipster areas in Locust Point and Fells Point. Baltimore's big problem isn't so much race as it is that (a) the police department has pretty much always been something of a law unto itself, and (b) there are these two large depopulated slums that nobody can summon up the will to deal with.

#104 ::: Jeff Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 12:58 PM:

abi@76: You're right, I was using a too-narrow definition of voter suppression. Though with Baltimore being overwhelmingly Democratic, most of the Republican dirty tricks have to do more with confusion than suppression. Like fliers listing a "slate" that mixes Republicans in with top Democrats.

For me, the most unfortunate thing about Baltimore politics is how much of it is family-driven. When an elected official dies or otherwise steps down, a family member will likely slip right in. This happens everywhere, of course, but here it happens a lot. And if people liked the original "Brghnsten," they'll continue to vote in the replacement "Brghnsten" no matter how bad he is. One family even ran as a slate, saying vote for Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear. (There were two different Baby Bears, depending on the year.)

Pete Rawlings, a city-based state legislator, earned tremendous respect over his career. His daughter, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, despite any evidence that she's any good at it or even that she likes the job, has become mayor through attrition (moving automatically from City Council Vice President to President when Sheila Dixon became mayor, and then automatically to Mayor when Sheila Dixon resigned over the stupid, opportunistic theft of some gift cards intended as Christmas presents to poor families). It was hard to respect Dixon, who demonstrated nepotism and low-level corruption at all times, but she actually didn't do a bad job of running the city.

Rawlings-Blake seems to act as if being mayor is a chore she's been assigned.

I can't get a handle on her at all. She was always kind of frumpy-looking, but when she became mayor she really worked on her image -- better hair, better make-up, better clothes. She made Vanity Fair's list of best-dressed mayors. But at one of her skimpy press conferences this week, she made the choice to come out in a baseball cap advertising Under Armour, a Baltimore company. Did they pay her for that? Will she be wearing a NASCAR-style jacket next, riddled with logos? I can't figure out the point -- or rather, why she would do that while dealing with the most serious issue of her tenure.

#105 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 01:58 PM:

The retweets/Facebook posts I am getting portray the mayor as ineffective and the governor as the savior. It may be true, but it also plays into gender roles and race roles. And I don't think the governor really did anything, just acted determined, deployed the National Guard and benefited from perceptions and tiredness.

Standing up for an outsider against your coworkers is a much bigger ask. I can understand why it doesn't happen most of the time. But you would leave after seeing abuse. Quit or move to a desk job or make sure you are never on patrol with that cop. That is what I would think would be happening.

I don't think they aren't racist. I know I'm racist in my thoughts. But that is not the same thing as making or letting people suffer.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 02:13 PM:

Teresa #42:

First, please don't automatically link rioting and looting, or rioters and criminals. Chaotic situations can be occasions for opportunistic crime committed by persons of all colors, but the automatic pair-ups of rioting/looting and rioters/criminals are disproportionately applied to persons of color.

In this case, and as far as I can tell in most similar cases, rioting and looting go together. I don't see how it would make sense to ignore that. Similarly, anyone looting stores or beating up bystanders or burning down buildings is, by the normal definitions we use day to day, a criminal. What else would you call people ransacking a liquor store and making off with all the alcohol they can carry?

Second, killing innocent people out of hand spreads a lot more fear than rioting does. It's just not distributed evenly.

I agree 100%. The riots and looting that went on yesterday were a small nasty thing that did limited damage. The impunity and brutality of the Baltimore police are a much bigger problem that's been going on for decades. I believe the first harms efforts to address the second.

I said:
If you want people to support the police no matter what they do, getting most of the citizens scared of criminals is a pretty good way to do it. Rioting and looting is a *great* way to spread fear.

you responded:
Maybe I'm missing something, but the only way I can see for that to be true is if you define "people" as "well-insulated white people living in mostly-white neighborhoods."
(We live in a very mixed neighborhood. When they held a neighborhood meeting about police violence, it was SRO, with people spilling out the doors.)

If you want police reform in Maryland, you will need to get the support of the suburbanites (white and nonwhite) who tend to be rather freaked out about riots and looting and such, and who also tend to avoid downtown Baltimore for fear of street crime.

My guess is that the biggest issue with police reform is not going to be public support, it's going to be keeping on top of it. Corrupt police departments have persisted for *decades*, and bureaucracies that have done the wrong thing for decades can be *really* effective at resisting change.

Fourth, the areas and demographic segments that will support the police no matter what are already scared of minorities, and it wasn't rioting that did that to them.

People who will always side with the police are probably never going to be part of a coalition to actually reform the police. Even they can probably be convinced to support some reforms, though--notably body cameras, which can also provide evidence to let a policeman defend himself against false accusations of misconduct.

Fifth, all those worthy strategies you list -- coalition building, improved police oversight, changing laws that protect police misconduct, changing police guidelines and protocols, etc. -- have been pushed for years.

Has rioting ever been tried?

Meanwhile, rates of police misconduct and violence against citizens have gone up.

Is there evidence that the rates of abuse have gone up?

My impression is that the amount of evidence for police brutality has gone up because of cellphone video, but also that the patterns of brutality and corruption and impunity in big-city police departments (NYC, Chicago, Baltimore, LA, etc.) go back a very long time. I'm not at all convinced that they're becoming more common. Perhaps they're getting more TV time right now.

...

And sixth, I don't feel I have the right to condemn the people who are rioting, because I'm not part of the population that's in danger of being stopped, frisked, beaten, tased, arrested on false charges or no charges, or shot out of hand.

This seems fundamentally wrong to me. I feel fine condemning rioting and looting--it's wrong. Is it understandable that some people do it? Sure. Lots of bad behavior is understandable in that sense. But it's not really justifiable.

There was a substantial effort among people involved in the mostly peaceful protests in Baltimore to go clean up after the rioting and looting and protests. If I judge that as a good thing to have done (and I do), it's hard to imagine how I could not be able to judge, say, looting a grocery store as a bad thing to do.

How do you feel about condemning ISIS for beheading apostates? Or Saudi Arabia for stoning adulterers? Surely you have even less personal experience with what they've gone through than what American blacks have gone through.

[I'm skipping a lot of your text here that I basically agree with.]

Riots and protests aren't just scary urban people briefly seen on the evening news. They're also a strong message sent outside normal channels, and they can be a piece of serious political push-back.

Perhaps so. They also have other consequences, and I believe they're mostly negative. Since I'd actually like to see the movement to get the police back under civilian control *succeed*, I'm hoping that we don't have any more of them in Baltimore anytime soon.

#107 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 02:19 PM:

One thing I wonder: How much of the problem with police brutality and impunity is primarily local, and how much is nationwide?

My (not all that informed) impression is that the corruptness and brutality of the police varies *enormously* from place to place, and that some cities have a reputation for having cops who can and do get away with just about anything they want.

On the other hand, Radley Balko pointed out a week or so ago in an article that a lot of states had enacted "police officer bill of rights" laws that gave the police enormous protections from being successfully investigated, charged, fired, etc., for alleged misconduct. Probably reforming the Baltimore PD would require changing MD state law *and* changing laws and policies in Baltimore.

IMO, one really important thing we could do everywhere is push to get some kind of independent state-level agencies whose job is to investigate police misconduct. It's a terrible conflict of interest to have the local police investigate themselves, or to have the same prosecutor who works with the local police every day make a decision about whether to prosecute one of those policemen.

#108 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Lady Kay:

I wonder if there isn't a kind of filtering process going on there. Some police departments have a reputation for being pretty brutal--you might never apply there if you hated the idea of that kind of thing. Or, you might move on to another police department, if you came to feel like you couldn't live anymore with knowing that some of your coworkers were smacking people around for mouthiness or walking while black.

That's a process that would leave the worst police departments staffed overwhelmingly by the kind of people who were willing to be as brutal and corrupt as necessary.

#109 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 02:30 PM:

Lady K @105: If every "good" cop who sees abuse and is sickened at it quits the force or moves to a desk job, that leaves only people who think it's ok out on patrol interacting with citizens.

Not ideal.

#110 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 02:37 PM:

#108 ::: albatross

I'm realizing that there is probably a lot of filtering going on that was under my radar before. And that Baltimore City is probably suffering from that filtering. (Also maybe parts of Prince George's county, which is a big county).

#111 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 03:16 PM:

Jeff Smith@73: "…in Baltimore it's class…"

The "bucket of fiddler crabs" effect, everyone trying to climb to the top on everyone else's backs, so no-one ever gets out of the bucket. People with a little are usually the hardest on the people who have even less. And I expect that some of the whites who run the state lege are only too happy to see middle class blacks mistreating poor blacks.

albatross@107: one just thing to do is to repeal the state's law enforcement bill of rights, of course. "Enacted in 1974, Maryland's LEOBR is one of the most extreme such laws in the country." (ACLU link.) I think a constitutional case could be made against such laws, but the Roberts Court is not likely to rule against them.

Lady Kay@93:"Police officer is a good job. They don't choose it in order to beat up a kid in the back of a van." It may depend on which officers you know. My friend Traci, has officers in the family, has this to say about them: "Get them at a family reunion and get a few beers in them, and they will tell disgusting stories of how they retaliated against people in their custody because the person wasn't 'respectful' enough." (And more at this link.)

In a bad force, instead of maintaining the standards of their corps, most decent officers won't stand up and criticize their brutal colleagues. Class bigotry, long-term racism, the drug war, and the various anti-terrorism initiatives have corrupted a lot of forces. Leadership is important, too. If the Mayor and the Chief of Police and their subordinates set a high standard for the department, if the cops are proud of being good cops, then they police themselves. If not, the bullies take over.

And here's the Peelian Principles, the foundation of modern policing, from Sir Robert ("Bobby") Peel, one of Britain's great 19th-century conservatives. I wish more US forces would attend to them.

#112 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 03:22 PM:

Albatross @106

'The riots and looting that went on yesterday were a small nasty thing that did limited damage. The impunity and brutality of the Baltimore police are a much bigger problem that's been going on for decades. I believe the first harms efforts to address the second.'

I'd like to know more about these efforts to address the second. Who's been making them? What concrete progress have they achieved since (choose your baseline)? What compromises are we expecting, and from which people, in order to build on this progress?

I don't think we can say much that's going to be useful about how riots are undermining other efforts at reform (and how significant a point that might be in the context of this conversation) without addressing these questions.

#113 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 03:27 PM:

Lady Kay, #86: Reading that last line out of context, it sounds remarkably pornographic. :-)

Nancy, #88: I would back that idea. Not in the sense of making it mandatory, but that anyone who wants one should be able to get it without undue hassle or expense.

Lady Kay, #93: If nobody chooses that job in order to beat up black kids in the back of a van, then how/why does it end up happening? This is not actually a rhetorical question, because it has an answer. It ends up happening because no action is taken, no consequences arise, from the hundreds of lesser offenses that lead up to it. A cop loses his temper and smacks a black suspect around. What happens? Not even a reprimand. So the next time he's tempted, it doesn't take as much provocation and the degree of force gets higher. And so, eventually, you end up with a gang of thugs who see no reason at all not to beat up a black kid in the back of a van, because they know nothing will happen to them for doing it.

The rot seeps down from the top.

#114 ::: cyllan ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 03:28 PM:

" But you would leave after seeing abuse. Quit or move to a desk job or make sure you are never on patrol with that cop. That is what I would think would be happening."

I...don't know that this is always true. I think it would be terrifyingly easy for an average person -- and I am including myself in this -- to drift into a mindset where they were good and all suspects were bad. Once you're at that mindset, a nickel-ride isn't abuse, it's "properly softening up the hardened criminal so that he will confess and go to jail where he belongs." The guy in the desk across the way brings in donuts when we're pulling double-shifts, and yeah, sometimes he's got a temper, but he's also got a family, and the perp totally was asking for it. Sure, the kid was just tagging a bridge, but you know how it goes; he probably had a knife in his back pocket, and Jane's just a hair over 5 feet; she's tiny. You'd have tased him too.

And on and on. Yes, if the abuse is blatant and obvious, and I'm 40 and secure in who I am and in having a career when I leave, then reporting it and quitting is easy. But when I'm 21 (or 18?) and this is my first job? I don't know how easy that would be.

I feel like The Missing Stair is relevant here somehow. It's not just social communities that work around the difficult people and make excuses for bad behavior. Now, on the upside, this suggests that a concerted effort to remove a small number of people can make a drastic change to the health of an organization/community. People simply have to be willing and to have sufficient support to do so.

#115 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:05 PM:

My cousin shared this link to David Simon's take on Baltimore police brutality.

He (David Simon) blames it on Martin O'Malley's desire to run for governor and the drug war. I should keep that in mind since Martin O'Malley is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

#116 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:05 PM:

Maybe federalize policing? And insist police rotate to different cities/states every few years?

It would divorce policing from local political control, and make it harder for cronyism to get a foothold. Not a silver bullet or anything, but bad and corrupt police seems to be widespread issue. I just don't see how such corruption (and the culture that enables it) can be effectively addressed when police departments are all independent, local entities.

#117 ::: kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:07 PM:

abi and others, I think it's a mistake to assume that the police are out of control or beyond the control of the political forces that "nominally" control them.

There is very little evidence except when there is a big problem that makes the news, that the police aren't doing exactly what they are intended to do. When incidents occur, it's time to rein them in, but it never lads. Former Gov. O'Malley in MD is a great example. He's in the news walking around Baltimore, but his policies directly, immediately, purposefully increased aggressive policing. I look at what police in big cities are doing, and lack of control doesn't seem to be one of the problems.

Although the routine conviction of a good part of the community for crimes that remove the right to vote isn't what we usually mean by "voter suppression", it certainly walks and quacks like that particular duck.

This can only be part of the equation, in my view. In Ferguson, the district attorney who has been widely criticized for running a bad grand jury (and not many grand juries are anything but bad), ran, unopposed, in the middle of the protests for another term, and of course won.

There are some calls for a national policy on policing and investigating allegations of police misconduct and lawlessness, but I can't help but feel that if local politics - which can be the most responsive, quickest, and most progressive avenue for redress - is removed from the equation we'll all be worse for it.

#118 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:09 PM:

#115 ::: Lady Kay

I was just going to post that link-- I recommend it because it's a detailed account of the recent history of police culture in Baltimore, and how a fairly bad culture got much, much worse.

It's a lot better than philosophizing about police in general.

#119 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:20 PM:

Things such as Google Streetview make it easy to see what a place is like, though sometimes it is very not-current. You ask yourself, have things changed, because they could have.

But places I know haven't changed much. There are businesses that vanish, but they have been replaced. They're still full.

And some places are still empty.

And some of this shit is looking like criminal fraud.

In London, developers have been told they shall have a rebuild a pub they demolished without permission

I don't know when they bought the pub, but their actions may have cheated the original owner. It was a running pub, and one day they told the staff not to come in tomorrow: stocktaking.

The next day it was demolished. As the photos with that report show, there were pictures still on that wall. What made the demolition contractor think this was OK? Did they have time to clear out the beer in the cellar? It's a valuable asset, and the Exciseman would want answers.

That's the sort of attitude that gives us urban wasteland: people with money and no soul wrecking the world of the weak. And anyone who has run a business has an idea of the detailed accounts needed to wind it up. How much tax and excise duty have they dodged?

And meanwhile the staff have been abandoned without income.

#120 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:21 PM:

TNH @42:
"We've accepted the absurd post-9/11 over-valorization of LEOs, which is a major factor in them not getting prosecuted when they screw up."

A number of people, including Baltimore's own mayor, have pointed out that a major problem in holding LEOs accountable are Law Enforcement Officers Bills of Rights. Maryland's is one of the strongest, and was passed in 1972, well before 9/11.

Cops have been over-valorized for a long time.

#121 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:40 PM:

re 115: .... which puts another taint into things, because I have to suspect that the reason the Sun article doesn't seem to go back any further than 2007 is because that's when O'Malley moved down to Annapolis. I have to suspect they don't want to taint his prez prospects.

#122 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 04:59 PM:

I've been expecting this for years. The Baltimore police abuse everybody, not just blacks. But the aggressive tactics put into place by Martin O'Malley focused on the black majority areas. The problem is not just the neglect of poor neighborhoods, it's the failure of authority to hold police, black as well as white, accountable for abusing their power. They have a mindset held by many police officers: if you're not a cop, you're a criminal who hasn't been caught yet. I had a black Baltimore cop brag to me that he and his buddies had the Constitution printed on toilet paper so they could wipe their asses with it every day.

I've seen hard-core white right-wing law-and-order types more and more turn against the out of control law enforcement. They are watching all the cellphone and Youtube videos and just cannot justify what they are seeing. When the police have lost those hard-core types...

#123 ::: Robert Glaub ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:00 PM:

I've been expecting this for years. The Baltimore police abuse everybody, not just blacks. But the aggressive tactics put into place by Martin O'Malley focused on the black majority areas. The problem is not just the neglect of poor neighborhoods, it's the failure of authority to hold police, black as well as white, accountable for abusing their power. They have a mindset held by many police officers: if you're not a cop, you're a criminal who hasn't been caught yet. I had a black Baltimore cop brag to me that he and his buddies had the Constitution printed on toilet paper so they could wipe their asses with it every day.

I've seen hard-core white right-wing law-and-order types more and more turn against the out of control law enforcement. They are watching all the cellphone and Youtube videos and just cannot justify what they are seeing. When the police have lost those hard-core types...

#124 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:21 PM:

Pericat @116 Maybe federalize policing? And insist police rotate to different cities/states every few years?

No, that would make it worse. Federal policies I would agree with. The idea of federal control makes me twitch and I'm neither a libertarian nor a conspiracy buff. Even done well, I think it's a problem, and there are too many ways for it to wrong. Also, staying put gives bad cops room for cronyism, as you say, but it also gives good cops the opportunity to be deeply knowledgeable about and engaged with their community.

#125 ::: ULTRAGOTHA ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:31 PM:

Jeff Smith @#73 Anyway, I hardly ever have to stand in line at the polls, just walk in, sign my name, vote, and walk out. The few other people I see are generally about as old as I am -- rarely do I see young voters at either my polling place or any others I drive by. (We have many polling places, and many people willing to drive you to yours if you need help.)

I used to live near Baltimore and there were never any lines at my polling place, either.

But I lived in a very white middle class community where the registrar of voters was always careful to not inconvenience us. There were lots of polling places, and lots of voting machines, so not many lines.

Stating that you don’t see lines does not mean that in poorer areas there are also sufficient polling places and working voting machines.

I owned a car, or getting to my polling place would have been difficult. It was about 1.5 miles away, with no direct bus service.

I worked 8 to 5. The polling places in my town were open before and after my work hours. I didn’t work two or three jobs. I didn’t rely on slow and inefficient public transportation to get me to my job, where it might take two hours on a bus just to go from one job to the next, much less to the polling place. I didn’t have kids I had to pick up from the sitter on time or I’d be charged extra.

At least MD has early voting, which is more than many states with large minority populations have.

On another axis, Maryland requires photo ID to register to vote. I could fill PAGES with the crap I went through to get a driving license in MD. I had to go to three different DMV offices, take two half-days off work, stand in enormous lines, get my legislator involved and go to the supervisor of a DMV office 40 minutes away and they STILL told my wife her current, valid passport wasn’t considered a valid ID because “it didn’t have any visa stamps in it”. I hate to imagine what someone living paycheck to paycheck with no car would have to go through to get a State-issued photo ID in MD.

There are far more reasons than that why it’s easier to vote as a more privileged white person than as a poor person of color. Those are just the tip of the iceberg.

What impresses me is how many people DO still vote regularly in the face of all that.

#126 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:37 PM:

http://reason.com/blog/2015/04/29/david-simon-on-how-civil-rights-were-des

Another interview with David Simon.

#127 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 05:40 PM:

Jeff Smith @104 - You know, I'm really uncomfortable with all that extra scrutiny on a female mayor's dress choices.

The word "frumpy" I've come to recognize as a particular indicator that what follows will be a valuation of a woman's person based on how she looks. It functions much like the word "shrill," but on the visual spectrum rather than the rhetorical.

Do you have any anecdotes to back up the statement "Rawlings-Blake seems to act as if being mayor is a chore she's been assigned," that do not boil down to "doesn't perform femininity adequately"? Like, how does she, in fact, act?

#128 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 06:19 PM:

Nicole @127, thanks, I'd been thinking that too.

#129 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 06:45 PM:

re 127: O'Malley definitely shifted his dress from his "member of the band" early days as mayor to actually dressing like a grown-up all the time once he was firmly aimed at the statehouse. Baltimore is the kind of place that can definitely embrace a mayor with a wildly out-there style of dress; after all, we have Divine and the Visionary Art museum. She could even have made a virtue out of frumpy. The problem is that she seems to be going through the motions. The notorious "space to destroy" speech is a perfect example: in a time when the city needed some stirring leadership, she rambles on in this ambiguous and mealy-mouthed apology. If she had showed up in her bathrobe and said something commanding (and better still, done something commanding), people would have loved her for it. Instead, she all but said, "I can't lead this place."

#130 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 07:43 PM:

I regret to say that I have no trouble believing that about 40% of the U.S. police are racist murderists, and that life in this country might be improved if "Rioters" killed them. On another hand, killing any police officer who is _not_ a racist murderer should be a /d/e/a/t/h/ life-imprisonment offence. So... umm... be careful, people.

Me... I'm an elderly (working on 87 years) relatively prosperous White guy living in an area where the Police seem to be totally polite and competent, so nu? Mind you, if I were a police officer working in some part of Baltimore on a day-to-day basis with people who might kill me at whim, I'd probably feel differently.

#131 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 08:31 PM:

Don Fitch #130: The problem is, those cops are in much the same situation as our soldiers in the Middle East:

They're the N'th wave of force sent to "keep those people down" while their bosses spouted something entirely different for the home audience. So now they're dealing with the accumulated hostility racked up by all their predecessors. Naturally, a fair number of them respond by buying in fully to the program set from the top. And those who don't buy in, are all too likely to get sold out instead. (Often in the "damaged merchandise" bin".)

#132 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2015, 08:59 PM:

Seen on Tumblr: "White people be like #AllStoresMatter."

#133 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 04:14 AM:

Rene D @39, 53 & abi @40 - This is one point where I really start wanting to bash my head against the table, because the whole question of "how do we make people vote?" is a solved problem. You make voting a legal responsibility - make turning up to vote a compulsory thing - and also make it illegal to block someone else's access to voting. This is what we have here in Australia, and have had for at least as long as I've been alive. It works. We have a massively higher turn-out level than the US, the UK, than just about any nation where voting is voluntary.

It also means the central bodies administering our elections - the Australian Electoral Commission for federal elections, and the various state electoral commissions for the state ones - are required to take steps to make voting accessible and understandable for the majority of voters. It means there are laws in place requiring elections to take place on Saturdays, there are laws requiring the use of postal, pre-poll and absentee ballots to allow for people who have to work, or are undergoing hospital treatment, close to giving birth, or who are on holiday on polling days. It means we have staff from the AEC who go around hospitals and aged care facilities (aka nursing homes) ensuring that everyone who is eligible to vote can do so. We even have laws saying that people who are in prison for a sentence of 2 years or less have to be allowed to vote as well.

Compulsory voting solves the "voter engagement" problem quite easily. What it doesn't do, and what we're starting to run up against here in Australia as well, is solve the problems caused by a chronic lack of engagement with voters from the political classes. When none of your candidates are offering to do anything you want done (but they're all offering the same variations on the things you don't want) all you can do in such a situation where compulsory turnout is present is pick the least worst candidate (and again, this is where our preferential counting system isn't helping us either). Basically, an election can boil down to an opinion poll about whether voters prefer potato chips with salt and vinegar, or whether voters prefer potato chips with vinegar and salt. (We aren't asked whether we'd like a different range of flavours, or whether we mightn't prefer corn chips, or popcorn, or even crackers instead. Nope, pick your choice of salt & vinegar or vinegar & salt potato chips).

Magenta Griffith @52 - Allow me to wish you a somewhat cynical "good luck" with getting any of that list of options even within shouting distance of the political agenda. There are a lot of people who are benefiting from the current situation, and they have a lot of money they are very willing to spend with the aim of ensuring the current situation continues. This is, in part, what the riots are about.

Stewart @90 - There is one state in Australia which has Voter ID laws - Queensland - and those laws were brought in by a highly reactionary and conservative state government which was largely playing off the Tea Party play book. Thing is, in a place like Australia, where voting is a responsibility rather than a privilege, voter ID laws can't really be used for their standard purpose in most conservative play books - namely, restricting the access of the poor, the young, and the elderly to the vote.

Pericat @116 - I think it would also make the police a lot less effective overall. What appears to work as far as policing goes is what's labelled "community policing" - the sort of police work where the police officers actually live in the community they're policing, where they're part of the community and where they're making an effort to remain part of the community. This kind of policing requires patrol officers to be located in the one area on a regular basis, rather than commuting in from somewhere else, and tapping into the local gossip networks rather than investigating from outside. Having this kind of police presence available is part of what makes a rural police district a bit safer than an urban one (I'm willing to admit most of it is more likely to be population densities; but never discount the effect of a police officer knowing which Mum to report which kids to when they're throwing stones).

#134 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 05:59 AM:

While the police in the UK are a long way from being perfect, things could be worse over here... and a lot of that is due to the changes that took place in the early 1980s, after the investigation of the Metropolitan Police by outside police forces - "Operation Countryman".

That operation successfully exposed a lot of bad police officers, and prompted reforms to the systems which had allowed them to carry on being bad for so long. You could argue that the reforms didn't go far enough and haven't lasted well enough, but they were a step in the right direction, and it sounds like the approach might be good for the US, too.

The essential aspect of Countryman was that it brought in investigators from outside, so that they treated the Met not as "fellow policemen" but as "those other people". And we all know how the cops treat "those other people". The beauty of it is, the investigating force don't have to be good cops themselves... there is no solidarity among bad people (and bad cops are just a special case of bad people).

It works in all sorts of situations... the Chinese troops who broke up the protests in Tiananmen Square were brought in from distant parts of China, so they could look upon the protesters as practically foreigners, for instance. Any place you can get a Them-and-Us divide going, really. As General Metzov put it in The Vor Game, "You could always rely on the Army to shoot the Navy, or vice versa". General Metzov is maybe not the role model one might choose for dealing with a touchy civil rights situation, but, well, if it works....

So, perhaps one approach might be to gather up enough political will to organize an investigation of Baltimore PD by an outside police force. For instance, there might be officers of the LAPD currently on administrative leave who could usefully be redeployed to this task....

#135 ::: Paul Herzberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 06:04 AM:

Megpie71 @133:

I don't think "Make not voting illegal" actually addresses the question "Why aren't people voting?". But, in a very Yes Minister way, makes it look like something is being done while creating another set of problems.

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 06:13 AM:

Megpie @133:

I would be a heck of a lot more comfortable with the idea of compulsory voting if there were not so many active and passive roadblocks to people doing it.

I know the intention would be to remove those roadblocks. But I also strongly suspect that the intention would fail to yield actual roadblock removal, and then we'd just have another crime to arrest, try, fine, and convict the same people of.

What if we first did the remove-obstacles thing, and then saw if that was sufficient to improve voting rates? Or rewarded voting after those roadblocks were removed, say, by actual usable results?

Steve Wright @134:

I'm concerned that you might be underestimating the unity of the American police across venues, particularly within the conservative political spectrum. Hearing that police outwith New York have started taunting people with "I can't breathe" and suchlike doesn't fill me with confidence that another American force could be sufficiently independent.

I wonder if we could get the Mounties to come by? Or the Met itself, or the Dutch police? All of these forces have their own flaws, but what they don't have is the cultural unity with American LEOs.

#137 ::: Steve Wright ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 06:42 AM:

abi @136 - I suspect it'd be a lot of work just to get a Countryman-style investigation going in the US; I am sure that an investigation by a non-US police force would be politically impossible. (Works for all of us, of course - I can imagine the screams of outrage that would arise over here from UKIP and the Tory right, if the Belgian police were called in to investigate the Met, say.)

Besides... it comes down to there being no solidarity among bad people. Good cops have an incentive to take down bad cops - it's their duty, after all. However, bad cops also have an incentive to take down bad cops - successful arrests build their personal reputation for efficiency and probity. (Also, bad cops benefit, in the abstract, from there being fewer bad cops around - if the police are widely trusted and respected, it makes it easier for the bad ones to get away with whatever it is they're doing.) The bad guys may pay lip service to solidarity, but it vanishes as soon as their own interests come into play.

Of course, virtually nobody thinks of themselves as bad guys, anyway. And our own excuses for our own bad behaviour, somehow, never seem to be acceptable when they're used by someone else. "Sure, I take kickbacks from drug dealers, but I need the money and anyway you can't be a copper without knowing crooks, right? But that guy, taking an apple off that barrow, there, that is just using his badge to prey off hard-working small businessmen! Throw the book at him!"

#138 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 09:20 AM:

#133 ::: Megpie71

"Compulsory voting solves the "voter engagement" problem quite easily. What it doesn't do, and what we're starting to run up against here in Australia as well, is solve the problems caused by a chronic lack of engagement with voters from the political classes. When none of your candidates are offering to do anything you want done (but they're all offering the same variations on the things you don't want) all you can do in such a situation where compulsory turnout is present is pick the least worst candidate (and again, this is where our preferential counting system isn't helping us either). Basically, an election can boil down to an opinion poll about whether voters prefer potato chips with salt and vinegar, or whether voters prefer potato chips with vinegar and salt. (We aren't asked whether we'd like a different range of flavours, or whether we mightn't prefer corn chips, or popcorn, or even crackers instead. Nope, pick your choice of salt & vinegar or vinegar & salt potato chips)."


You phrase this very well. The other thing is that one is ask to vote for "legalese" that doesn't clearly explain that "yes" means crackers and "no" means biscuits.

#139 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 10:47 AM:

137
I wish that there wasn't that kind of unity being displayed all-too-often by US law enforcement. When someone is fired for cause and then rehired by the police a town or two over, or investigated and found out of line multiple times without consequences, it doesn't give me confidence that anything will fix the problems.

#140 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 10:51 AM:

"Rollo Tamasi is the reason I became a cop. I wanted to catch the guys who thought they could get away with it. It's supposed to be about justice. Then somewhere along the way, I lost sight of that... Why'd you become a cop?"
"I don't remember."
- L.A. Confidential

#141 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 10:58 AM:

Megpie @133, I do not think compulsory voting would solve voter unengagement problems that exist in much of the US, that is due to reasons like:

* Very long lines to vote at precincts in poor and minority areas

* Polling places that are not accessible by public transit and thus to people without cars

* People whose employers will not give them time off work to vote, insufficient time off, or who will not pay them for time off to vote (if you're just squeaking by, giving up two hours' pay to vote may not be an option)

* Active attempts to dissuade people from voting (lies about being arrested if you attempt to vote with an unpaid parking ticket, wrong dates being distributed on official-looking material, ID requirements that again disproportionally affect poor people who are less likely to have drivers' licenses, etc.)

Let's solve those problems first, before further penalizing the people who are already being prevented from voting.

#142 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 11:39 AM:

megpie71@133: "When none of your candidates are offering to do anything you want done…"

Sad puppies aren't much fun. Perhaps adding "None of the above" to the ballot would help. Or is it there already?

#143 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 11:44 AM:

lorax@141: if we fined jurisdictions for practices that discouraged voting, those problems would be quickly resolved.

Meantime, the Oregon (and, perhaps, now California) solution of opt-out registration on issuance of a driver's license or state ID card may largely resolve the problem of registration, at least. The state's mail balloting procedure makes it easier to vote at a considerable risk of fraud or coercion.

#144 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 01:41 PM:

Pericat @ 116 -- the problem with that is that policing isn't one-sized-fits-all.

I wouldn't want to see a cop who was raised in the heart of an inner city transplanted here, to a small town in Arizona. Some things are universal -- most crime here is drug related -- and some things are very different than the big city. Culturally, it's entirely a different world.

#145 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 01:56 PM:

144
ON the other hand, maybe having some experience in various settings might help: large/small populations and urban/rural contrasts might get some of them to think outside the boxes they've been in. (You get so used to thinking that the way you know is the Only Way, that maybe you miss possibilities.)

#146 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 03:14 PM:

PJ @ 145 -- oh, that's certainly true. I was thinking, though, that it wouldn't be very efficient to get a cop well trained on local customs and culture and then move him/her along.

You'd basically always have newbies, who didn't know the area, who weren't used to dealing with local cultural quirks, and who didn't know the people well.

Mind you, I'd love to see outsiders hired for the police force, and maybe some outsiders come in to clean up the political scene in general. That, unfortunately, is not likely to happen. Like everywhere else, we've certainly had some issues with corruption and abusive police.

#147 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 05:09 PM:

So the Wicomico County sheriff has decided to put his oar in, claiming a "stand down" order permitting the looting. He is an interesting piece of work.

#148 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 05:25 PM:

146
Just living someplace different for six months or a year, sometime in your adult or near-adult life, might be enough. (Mind you, I've toyed with the idea of government-owned apartments for Congress, where they don't get to choose their neighbors, but instead their neighbors are from as different a region as possible.)

#149 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2015, 05:54 PM:

PJ -- Oh, I'd love to see that. And a cultural exchange would help THIS area, too.

Tangentially related to the topic above, as an example of abusive laws and our really f'd up justice system -- local man with felony conviction from the 1980's (and a apparently a misdemeanor arrest and misdemeanor plea deal from several years ago) inherits a firearm. Inherits, mind you, not buys.

Local man promptly sells the firearm to a local pawn shop*. Local man is then arrested, and convicted, sent to jail for a year for possession of a firearm, because you know, felons are not supposed to own firearms.

http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2015/apr/28/judge-unfortunate/

Srsly? Would they have preferred he sold it on the street or kept it? If he'd just given it to the cops, they could still have arrested him for possession, under the same logic.

The justice system around here feels like a game of, "Gotcha!" a lot of times. Arizona has a for-profit prison system. There's hefty financial incentive to imprison people, and you betcha there's a financial trail from the corporate owners of the prisons to the politicians and judges.

(*Selling the gun to a pawn shop is logical if you realize every licensed gun dealer in town also owns a pawn shop, as far as I know. There are at least a dozen "guns and pawn" stores around here.)

#150 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 05:20 AM:

There have been policemen in my family. One or two stories about the "old days" were passed around.

They did things differently, but how much of a difference has technology made?

A century ago, no radio and few motor vehicles, the only call for help a police-whistle, could the army-of-occupation style of policing ever work. Did the "army" have the C3I capacity? Police officers knew their lives could depend on not pushing the community too far.

Can there ever be the self-interest there was in the idea of policing by consent?

#151 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 10:22 AM:

Interview with Martin O'Malley

Haven't finished this yet. It's a lot more sympathetic to him than the David Simon interview.

#152 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 11:45 AM:

With respect to movement of police officers: you don't move everyone at the same time, so presumably you have some institutional memory. I think it makes sense to have more movement in the early careers, so officers get a wider exposure to people as well as to policing needs. As one moves up in seniority, one settles down and specializes, so to speak. It might be good to take a sabbatical every now and then to refresh your learning.

With respect to Baltimore: the prosecutor has handed down criminal charges against 6 officers, ranging from second-degree manslaughter to assault. It's a start.

#153 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 01:52 PM:

DA is charging six officers with a variety of offenses, including second-degree "depraved heart" murder.

In the linked video she lays out in some detail the events that led to Mr. Gray's death. Second degree murder strikes my not-lawyer self as an appropriate charge if the DA's version of events is largely accurate.

#154 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 02:22 PM:

Lady Kay #138: Compulsory voting does not solve the problem of lack of voter choice, true. What solves that is the same thing everywhere: crisis. Cultural and economic crisis in the 1960s created new political parties in a number of European countries (it's not an accident, for example, that one Dutch political party is Democrats 66). The current economic/social crisis has created new parties in Europe -- the 5 Star Movement in Italy, Syriza in Greece, Podemos and Ciudadanos in Spain -- that have emerged from various social movements just as voter apathy has risen. The successes that these parties have had in recent national and regional elections indicates that people believe that they are the change that they seek.

Similarly, the traditional Labour-Tory divide in Britain is being shaken up by a variety of challengers, some of which appear to be able to bring large numbers of people back to the polls.

I do not doubt that if they believe that there is someone to vote for, the disaffected young black people in Ball'mer and other cities will turn out. After all, they did in 2008 when someone spoke to them and said 'Yes, we can!' But Barack Obama is not enough, there has to be a broader political structure, whether within the Democratic Party or outside it does not matter, that will carry the concerns of underrepresented constituencies forward. Or, to put it in other terms, someone has, finally, to challenge Sombart's conclusion.

#155 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 04:07 PM:

The David Simon interview was really interesting. I very strongly recommend it.

I'd heard that cities were gaming the crime statistics before, but his description of how that happened in Baltimore under O'Malley was really striking. And I loved the sanity check between levels of aggravated assault and murder--if the murder rate drops by a little and the aggravated assault rate drops by a lot, it implies that the criminals must be becoming much better shots or the ERs must have all closed.

Another fascinating bit was his description of how incentives (overtime and promotion) had shaped both the current police behavior, and the department's whole culture. After enough years of promotions and overtime going to people who do the wrong stuff, your police force mostly doesn't know how to do anything *but* the wrong stuff, and even the people who know how to do the right stuff are way out of practice.

The stuff about gaming the crime statistics points out something really ugly about US politics. Martin O'Malley is a successful politician, often talked about as a plausible contender for president. This is what he needed to do to get there--he *had* to have a "Baltimore miracle" to propel himself upward. Doing so required tampering with the crime statistics, threatening crime victims with arrest to make them decide not to file crime reports, telling the cops to classify nearly all rape reports as unfounded to make sure the rape statistics looked good. And so that's what he had done (among other nasty things).

Just as with the Baltimore PD, our political system has incentives. You advance by being willing to do anything, no matter how awful, as long as you're unlikely to get caught in a big public scandal and it gets you to the next rung of the ladder. And just like the Baltimore PD filled up with the kind of people who didn't know how to do good police work but knew how to bust heads, the top ranks of our political system fills up with the kind of people who will demonstrably do *anything* to get to the next rung of the ladder. Lie, cheat, steal, send people you know are innocent to the death chamber, support people you know are crooks because they support you.

That's where we get stuff like the CIA torture scandal, and calculated decisions to support a war that makes no sense, and many other things besides. That's what they've been rewarded for doing, that's what they know how to do.

#156 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 04:12 PM:

Lies, damned lies, and statistics, eh, Albatross?

#157 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 04:17 PM:

Language has seen some 'amusing' gymnastics going on in the 21st Century. You want to ignore the Geneva Convention? Call the Other Guys 'enemy combatants'. You want to torture folks, refer to 'enhanced interrogation techniques'.

#158 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 04:31 PM:

Serge:

If it were just gaming crime statitics in some way with minimal collateral damage, I'd find that stupid and evil[1], but not chilling. But Simon is describing the systematic gaming of crime statistics in ways that had huge collateral damage. Someone who's willing to have his own city's citizens massicvely rounded up and arrested for standing around while black, or intimidated into not reporting crimes to improve his long-term political future, what do you suppose he's willing to do to foreigners if he ends up in the white house? What do you think he's willing to do to the Justice department or the EPA, if it will help him get and keep power?

Maybe this was some unique bit of awfulness, but I don't think so. It's of a piece with lots of other awful things done by ambitious politicians. That's what's so disturbing.

[1] Screwing up official statistics is an awful thing to do, because they're the information we need to use to make decisions about what works and what doesn't, or how things are going. Imperfect though crime statistics or school test scores or poverty statistics or unemployment statistics are, they offer us the best window we have onto what's going on. For example, you might like to know if lead levels are really correlated with crime, or if mass-incarceration is really decreasing crime. Good luck figuring it out if the statistics are all wildly gamed.

#159 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 04:35 PM:

158
Or if you're legally barred from keeping statistics on some things at all. Like anything involving guns, because the NRA (and its version of the 2nd amendment).

#160 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 04:53 PM:

albatross @ 158... I shouldn't say he has less chance than a snowball in Hell of making it into the Oval Office because the People has often shown itself to have less long-term memory than a gnat - no insult being intended to the latter. Sometimes though, the People surprises us in a good way.

#161 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 05:06 PM:

albatross writes: what do you suppose he's willing to do to foreigners if he ends up in the white house?

Bomb the crap out of them, invade their country, round up survivors, torture them, throw them in a Gulag.

Just like any modern American President.

#162 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 05:38 PM:

Yeah, I know for a fact that the ERs in Baltimore haven't all closed. They keep their own statistics, but for medical privacy reasons only some of those are widely available (very aggregated). And they rely on the police officers/firefighters/ambulance crews to prove any information about what happened before the patient shows up. I'm sure that the nurses and doctors have some doubts in some cases, but curiosity can be thought to be invasion of medical privacy.

#163 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 06:43 PM:

Laertes, #153: I really, really want to know what "depraved heart" means in this context. It certainly sounds appropriate, but sometimes legalisms don't mean what they sound like.

#164 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2015, 07:07 PM:

Here's a story that more or less matches what my amateur not-a-lawyer Googling turned up:

"In Maryland, depraved heart murder is "the killing of another person while acting with an extreme disregard for human life."...depraved heart murder is often used when the defendant caused a victim's death "without showing explicit intent to kill." He used the example of someone shooting a gun at cars: "The person may not have intended to kill anyone," but his behavior exhibits "an element of viciousness or disregard for human life.""

A case like Gray's murder, in which it seems obvious that the defendants intended to torment but not kill their victim who then died as a direct result of the abuse, that charge doesn't look too difficult to prove.

#165 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2015, 03:51 AM:

Being out of phase with US clocks, the reporting of Baltimore can get a bit wearing.

Observations:

The Baltimore Police have set up a system of media observer badges, set up specific locations as media zones for people with such badges, are making the badges worthless outside the zones. and have now revoked some.

I've seen, often enough, a confusion about process-timing in different jurisdictions. At what point in an investigations does somebody get charged? And I find myself wondering if the Police Union is running scared because they know what happens to people in jail if they are charged and can't post bail. Am I being too gleeful at the thought of the Baltimore system treating a cop like anyone else banged up on a murder charge?

Some of the details make me wonder if they have police vehicles fit for the purpose of transporting a detained person. There's that protruding bolt, and that claim floating around that it's common for people to literally bang their head against a wall. So how many cases of self-injury by detainees are really that? If it's a real risk, the organisation is negligent in the specification, design, and maintenance of vehicles. And now we can ask how many self-injury incidents are based on lies.

It seems to be getting very obvious that liar-cops are best assumed to be the default in any attempt to compare LEO agencies by the statistics. Some places may have lower detainee self-harm rates, but can we be sure enough of the honesty of the numbers? We can't use the x% low-end number as a base rate for honesty.

#166 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2015, 06:35 AM:

So, the officers are charged.

Do you think this would have happened without the national attention brought about by the riots?

#167 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2015, 10:56 AM:

Niall McAuley #166: It would also not have happened had the State's Attorney, the Mayor, the Police Chief, and other city officials not been African-American.

#168 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2015, 11:06 AM:

Dave Bell #165: The Baltimore Police have set up a system of media observer badges, set up specific locations as media zones for people with such badges, are making the badges worthless outside the zones. and have now revoked some.

So... they're presumptively asserting that they get to decide what the media can see, who counts as media, and that only the people they authorize can act as observers anywhere. Tell me about that free press again....

#169 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2015, 02:09 PM:

Laertes, #164: So, effectively, "sociopathic behavior" whether the person technically fits the category of "sociopath" or not. That's more or less what I was thinking, and it's a good description.

#170 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2015, 07:28 PM:

Megpie71 @133: make turning up to vote a compulsory thing

The catch is that, in the US (as a direct consequence of our particular history), this is precisely contrary to the desires of TPTB. As abi alludes, universal sufferage is their nightmare scenario. Hence all the efforts designed specifically to make it harder to vote, where they can get away with it.

Steve Wright @137: Of course, virtually nobody thinks of themselves as bad guys, anyway.

It would be fascinating to hear Traci (in Randolph's @111)'s LEO family members' moral self-assessments. The fact that this stuff mostly comes out when they're disinhibited by alcohol argues that they know that what they're doing is reprehensible. And that they put no small effort into not really thinking about that. Which makes me suspect that in their heart of hearts, they do think of themselves as bad guys, even if they put that in the pot of "Yeah, it's not really right, but whaddya gonna do?"

Raven on the Hill @143: if we fined jurisdictions for practices that discouraged voting

Oh, man, can you imagine the resulting game of Whack-A-Mole? And the list of such practices would be an ever-growing catalog.

I think it might be more effective to set up accessibility requirements—in fact, as I say that, we already have a model for that idea in the ADA. "No resident with the city limits can be more than ten minutes walk from a polling place. Polling places must be open twenty-four hours. Require early and mail-in voting. If picture ID is going to be required, acquisition of the IDs have to be available on the same basis, with the same consequences for failure, as the polling places. Require jurisdictions to fund these (with federal subsidies for those that don't have the revenue.)" And then fine the crap out of them if they don't comply.

Oh yeah and: end the freaking drug war.

Ginger @152: it makes sense to have more movement in the early careers

Cf medical interns.* There are many practices I think the justice system could beneficially import from the health system. Which is a thought I've been pondering for a long time: Imagine a justice system that's oriented toward "health" rather than "defense." (I.e., a medical model rather than a military one.)

(That is, so long as you go with "single payer" rather than our current "for profit" settup. o.0)

albatross @155: how incentives (overtime and promotion) had shaped both the current police behavior

Figuring out what to incentivize, and how, is a non-trivial problem.

* Or residencies? That thing on Grey's Anatomy where the medical students spend some time trying out different specialties.

#171 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2015, 07:44 PM:

170
One of my cousins went to medical school - he's from Texas, so University of Houston - and his residency is in Peoria, Illinois. He isn't fond of Illinois, I gather (for one thing, no nice beaches).

#172 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2015, 08:55 PM:

The third and fourth years of medical school are spent in rotations (usually about a month per specialty, and the key ones must be covered in the third year (OB/Gyn, Internal Medicine, and Surgery). The student can (and sometimes must) go to a different hospital for an "away" rotation. This is paid for as part of tuition at the medical school.

Residencies are ordered to expose the resident to all the sub-specialties in their specialty. This will usually include some sort of non-hospital-based time. In the US, this is paid for by Medicaid payments to the hospitals, so the non-hospital time is challenging to get funding for.

It would be a big culture shock to bring that into the police model, but with imagination, maybe? Of course, police very often marry much younger than doctors do, so you'd have to think about trailing spouses.

#173 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2015, 10:24 PM:

Jacque @ 170: Precisely the model I was thinking of -- and veterinary residents do the same sort of thing actually. I went to vet school outside the US, did my residency at the vet school in Louisiana, my post-doc at a medical school in North Carolina, and ended up in Maryland. I'm familiar with British, Canadian, and American "ways of doing things" because I traveled early in my career. I think of it as a form of cross-pollination, which only makes us better as we grow.

Not everyone moves around as much as I did, of course, but a fair number of us do, and that makes a difference. Families -- well, I didn't have one to move with me; I didn't meet my former partner until NC, and we moved together to MD. Other residents took their spouses and kids along; my FF's daughter is married to a Navy doctor who is finishing his first year as a resident here at Bethesda, and they're moving to Hawai'i in a few months. I'm sure public servants could do the same as the military does, if we took some time to develop the system. People could even request certain types of posting, as long as they completed required postings.

#174 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 05:37 AM:

The policing mess has caught up with O'Malley: AP story

#175 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 07:30 AM:

Ginger @173: I'm curious: which veterinary school did you go to?

I didn't do any veterinary residencies at other veterinary schools, but our period of "seeing practice"(extramural studies) required us to spend time in small animal, farm and equine practices, and I completed those around the UK in various urban and rural areas. And prior to that, gaining experience on farms, again I went to different locations.

Additionally, I spent three months as an aviculture intern at the International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin before I started my PhD. There were various aspects of American culture and US/UK differences which bumped I into during that period that I had never grasped from multiple previous vacation visits. It was interesting.

#176 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 08:10 AM:

Jacque @170:

I agree in principle to your list of poll accessibility requirements, but some may be harder to comply with than others. Rural voters may will not live within a 10 minute walk of anything suitable for a polling place. The "within city limits" clause might mitigate that, but there might be isolated cases where that is difficult, especially with some definitions of "city".

Another requirement would be for polling capacity. One of the major recurrent I've seen in election-day stories is long lines at the polls and delays in predominantly black, urban neighborhoods. I envision the polls in those areas are understaffed and with fewer, less maintained machines or booths. 2000 voters filing through a room with a capacity of 30, less the poll workers, inspectors, and monitors who are there all day, is going to take a long time.

I would include a rule that there has to be the capability for simultaneous voting (via multiple machines, booths, etc) based on polling district size, something like 1 booth/machine per 200 registered voters using the polling station.

#177 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 08:17 AM:

P J Evans @171: Illinois has plenty of nice beaches, as long as you're up by Lake Michigan. It does a really good fake for certain parts of the Atlantic Seaboard (but not Pacific). You can even bodysurf in it on a strong windy day.

Peoria, I'll grant, is pretty land-locked, but he can daytrip in to the city for a beachy Saturday for the price of a Metra or Amtrak round-trip ticket.

#178 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 08:44 AM:

I know enough chronically ill people and have enough contact with the fat acceptance movement to believe it's hard to find a doctor who actually pays attention to their patients' symptoms. I don't recommend using medical training as a model for improving how police behave. This doesn't mean medical training is an anti-model, either, but it shouldn't be used as a starting point for changes.

The connection to the fat acceptance movement is that a high proportion of doctors just prescribe weight loss to their fat patients without looking at the actual symptoms. I've also heard of doctors just prescribing weight gain to unusually thin people. I haven't been able to get a feeling for the real proportion of doctors who listen-- I see a lot of people say "I had to go to three or four doctors before I found one who listened" and lot of people who say "I must have been lucky, I found a good doctor on the first try."

Anyway, I'm not sure how policies should change to improve how the police treat the public. Part of the problem is that you need good people at the top-- solutions start with selection (don't hire adrenalin junkies), continue with education (teach how to damp down conflict), and include the willingness to fire police who are even mildly abusive to the members of the public.

I've heard that individual police officers become more abusive with time. If this is true, then it might help to limit how many months in a row police have to deal with the public.

Any suggestions of reform movements which worked?

#179 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 11:26 AM:

177
He grew up in Houston - I don't think that lake is going to do it for him.

#180 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 11:32 AM:

P J Evans, Lake Michigan is an inland sea. You can't see the other side, except from the top of the Sears Tower Big Wille Willis Tower when the weather is exceptionally clear. It has significant waves, although the tide is hardly measurable. The major differences is that it's freshwater and there's absolutely no danger of sharks whatsoever. My husband grew up in Connecticut, and considers Lake Michigan to be a perfectly acceptable ocean-substitute.

#181 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 11:43 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #178, well, here locally we had a horrible incident in 1995 where police shot and killed an unarmed, naked, mentally disturbed black man; there was a lawsuit, which was settled out of court, and the department invested a lot of time and money in retraining its officers. Subsequently, police handled several horrible situations much better (including, in 2007, taking into custody an armed, mentally disturbed black man who had just stabbed an off-duty female cop--she would have died if the stabbing hadn't happened about 100 yards from the ER--and in 2011, arresting a black man suspected of murdering a police officer, after a standoff in which he was holed up with several potential hostages).

Obviously there are way too many variables here to be sure of anything, but my impression is that the institutional culture of our local police has changed for the better. They're certainly better trained.

#182 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 11:50 AM:

#181 ::: Lila

Thanks for the information.

It can be tempting to think that when things are bad, they're intractably bad, but sometimes they aren't.

Sometimes people behave badly because they're drifting on habit, and they can be shocked out of it. Sometimes they're attached to their bad behavior, and that's a much harder problem.

I suspect I've got something that's true but oversimplified here.

#183 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 12:37 PM:

Nancy:

One thing that always drives me crazy about the "you should lose some weight" line from doctors is that there really isn't anything they can recommend (other than surgery) that reliably works for losing and keeping off a substantial amount of weight. I mean, it feels a little like having your doctor tell you "you should get your blood pressure down" without giving you any medicine or any useful advice on how to get it down.

#184 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 12:47 PM:

albatross, the other issue is that a great deal of what goes wrong with people (yes, even fat people) won't be solved or even helped by them losing weight.

#185 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 12:52 PM:

One thing that makes the whole discussion on police misconduct harder to have (or have well) is that a lot of the relevant information is very messy or incomplete.

For example, how much of a problem is police misconduct nationwide? We hear about really awful cases from news reports[1], we see disturbing YouTube videos. There are also successful lawsuits against various police departments for brutality or wrongful death. And there are internal investigations and indictments or non-indictments[2], most of which we never hear about. Our sources of information aren't very good, which means it's hard to figure out what's going on.

My understanding is that while the BJS has some statistics, there's nobody who has really solid stats on the number of police shootings per year. And there's even less solid info about lesser police misconduct. My guess is that the damage done by the police occasionally killing or crippling someone in custody is an order of magnitude less than the damage done by them routinely beating people up, or beating information or confessions out of people. But I don't have hard data for that, and I have no idea where I'd even start to look for it.

[1] And news reports have a ton of biases. On one hand, local media tends to want to keep the police friendly because that gives them access they need to write stories. On the other hand, journalists are pack animals, and so when everyone's writing about police misconduct, lots of coverage will focus on police misconduct, regardless of whether it has become more common, less common, or stayed the same. And some people, like Radley Balko, focus on police misconduct because it's their beat.

[2] These are almost always a police department investigating itself, or a prosecutor investigating a police department he works with all the time, so they have huge built-in biases.

#186 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 12:55 PM:

Nancy:

One pretty good parallel for the situation is, IMO, the way ulcers used to be treated. The standard things people were told ranged from unhelpful to actively harmful--bland diets, antacids, avoiding caffeine, etc. Whereas the actual problem was, in about 90% of cases, a bacterial infection that could be treated with antibiotics.

#187 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 12:58 PM:

Niall #166:

I'd expect that the protests and the prosecutor would have led to the same outcome, though I have no idea how you'd tell which of us is right. OTOH, I really, really don't want prosecutors to be deciding whether to charge people for crimes based on either political protests or media coverage or riots--instead, I'd like them to charge people based on whether they are convinced they're guilty and can be convicted.

#188 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 04:08 PM:

dcb @ 175: I went to Ross University, which was unaccredited by the AVMA back then (it's now one of the accredited foreign schools), so I had to take the ECFVG as well as the National Boards/CCT for the state licensing exams. I had British and Canadian professors, did my preceptorships in Oklahoma State University, and in Ontario -- not at Guelph, but with private practitioners in Cambridge (Preston and Galt, but not Hespeler) and New Hamburg. Then I did a year of private practice in New Haven, CT, moved to LSU for my residency, moved to NC for my post-doc, did another year of private practice in NC, and then moved to Maryland.

My understanding of the British veterinary training is that it's a 5-yr program, with senior students taking on more responsibilities over the final two years -- in comparison, American veterinary schools only do this in a final year of the four-year school. Ross, which runs all semesters consecutively, used to have a four-year curriculum; they added a few semesters, and now have more of a five-year program.

#189 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 04:41 PM:

I wonder if there is a parallel between the mayor in a big city trying to rein in the police, and the president trying to rein in the intelligence agencies. In both cases, the guy at the top has all the power on paper, but the police/intelligence people have enormous power in practice, as well as having deep connections to the rest of the powers in the city/nation, opportunity to hold blackmail info, and even the power to do seriously nasty stuff to their enemies without getting in trouble for it.

#190 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 05:17 PM:

On improving voter turnout: perhaps we could try the tactic used in this country's early days, and hand out free Election Rolls?

I've made them. They're tasty. That and free coffee might draw a crowd.

Oh, and put 'em at the exit door.

#191 ::: Buddha Buck ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 05:32 PM:

Rikibeth @190: Your link is broken.

#192 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 05:34 PM:

Re: voting, poll lines and the like: Washington state has done away with lines at the polls (as has Oregon) by going to entirely mailed-in ballots. There are some problems with that (it makes it even harder for the homeless to vote, at least those that have no fixed address -- but USPS post-office boxes are actually fairly cheap; and they do have to be mailed with a stamp, or dropped at a special drop-box -- a tiny poll-tax). I'd be interested in seeing a system where there was a way to vote over the internet (since an awful lot of libraries have free internet access). But that doesn't seem to be on a lot of people's radar yet.

Rikibeth, your election rolls link is borked.

#193 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 05:40 PM:

I'm not sure what went wrong with it. Try this one, with added history?

#194 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 06:16 PM:

P J Evans, #179: Quite. Having grown up with the Great Lakes, Galveston doesn't do it for me at all. The Pacific coastline is a little better, but that's still salt water, and I want fresh.

albatross, #185: If the level of police misconduct we're seeing now has stayed the same -- or, ghod help us, has actually gone down -- that's a HUGE problem. Stories like these should be news because they're so rare, not because they're the current news fad and there's always one available. It's the "always one available" thing that's the problem.

We may indeed be seeing the equivalent of child sexual abuse reporting in the 1970s -- that it's always happened, but until recently nobody ever said anything about it -- but this does not make it not a real problem. What we're actually seeing in front of us is an issue that desperately needs to be addressed, and the relative-frequency argument is just a red herring.

and @187: I'd like them to charge people based on whether they are convinced they're guilty and can be convicted.

The problem there comes in when it's much, much easier to get a conviction on a black defendant than on a white one for the same accused crime. And we do have fairly reliable stats on hand showing that this is the case.

For that matter, have you heard about the white allies who are posting photos of themselves and their friends breaking the curfew in Boston, and being completely ignored by the police because they're in "white" neighborhoods -- even though there have been "disturbances" only 3 or 4 blocks away?

#195 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 06:41 PM:

Curfew in Boston, Lee? Nobody told me about that here. Fingers getting ahead of brain when you meant Baltimore?

#196 ::: Raven on the Hill ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 07:06 PM:

Tom Whitmore@192: the mail ballot, however, has its own problems with security and fraud—all the recent voting frauds have involved mail ballots. Those risks have not yet materialized in a major way but, as with the Hugo ballot, someone will probably do it eventually.

This isn't to say the problems with the mail ballot cannot be fixed, but there is little interest in the USA in fixing them.

#197 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 08:18 PM:

Rikibeth, #195: Oops! Yes, that's what happened -- just a brain-fart. Thanks for the catch.

#198 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2015, 11:00 PM:

albatross #185: Our sources of information aren't very good, which means it's hard to figure out what's going on.

Your sources of information aren't very good. Black people know the score, and are becoming increasingly vocal about it.

And yes, per Lee #194, I do think we're looking at something like child sexual abuse in the 70's. Specifically, the people with power are starting to recognize and question a societal norm that they previously treated as a collective "missing stair".

#199 ::: MaxL ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 03:28 AM:

Lee @194

It's not that nobody has been saying this is the norm, it's that the people saying it were ignored by media and politicians alike. But now you have twitter, and now everyone has a (video)camera in their pocket, and now it's a lot harder to ignore those voices.

#200 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 08:23 AM:

Lila @ 181: What It Means (track 21) is about that incident. Sorry I can't link straight to it. Full of NSFW words spoken aloud.

#201 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 09:05 AM:

Tom Whitmore @192:

[mail-in ballots in WA and OR] do have to be mailed with a stamp, or dropped at a special drop-box -- a tiny poll-tax

That's surprising; when I lived in California and Arizona, where they didn't have universal vote-by-mail but did let people sign up for "always vote absentee" or something like that, so that any individual could choose to vote by mail, the ballots didn't require a stamp, and I always assumed it was for poll-tax reasons. I'd be surprised if the stamp requirement would hold up in court.

#202 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 11:56 AM:

#185 ::: albatross

and

#198 ::: David Harmon

Aren't we looking for national-level or at least state-level data? Individual communities will have neighborhood-level data or at best city-wide data. It takes effort to pull that data together, eliminate duplicates and determine whether missing data is missing for a reason. If only metropolitan areas are of interest, that could be easier.

Who would collect the data? How often? So far, the police have been collecting it (in so far as it is collected at all) as part of their internal processes. Many police departments account for every bullet. ERs and Trauma centers keep track of admissions and cause of trauma as reported by the first responders. But some injuries aren't going to require ER treatment, some jails probably have on-site doctors that are more general practice (and therefore are required to report to the State department of health rather than to the trauma system/ERs).

Churches, Red Cross, NAACP? Does the Red Cross visit prisoners in the US? In jails or just in prisons? Was Chicago just accused of having secret locations for interrogation that weren't in the regular police reporting system? So a jail-based system would have missed those locations, or caught them much later.

I'm concerned that if a survey-type system of the community is set-up, it will report mistreatment of children and young people very well and miss mistreatment of the elderly and homeless.

#203 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 12:04 PM:

albatross @ 183: it's not true there's nothing a doctor can recommend; the problem is that there's no \single/ thing a doctor can recommend. I was told at age 29 that I'd put on 25# in 3 years and should do something about it; the years I'd spent analyzing problems in chem/bio labs probably made thinking about my own changes much easier, but anyone else would have had to spend time looking at everything that had happened. (Short form: career change to a sitting job that supplied serious elevenses and paid enough that I could eat out when I wanted outweighed the fact that I was often bicycling to work.)
      Note that time is in steadily shorter supply in medical offices. Doctors (and even the non-MDs who provide a lot of care these days) are pressured by money men pressured by insurance companies to increase turnover; "they wouldn't listen to me" is a valid complaint, but often not the fault of the person the patient sees.
      Yes, 25# isn't "substantial" by most measurements -- but I know two people just in my immediate circle who lost much more with guidance. The key above (and the contradiction to your claim) is that "weight loss" is the wrong approach; what works is "weight management", which includes motivation (for permanent behavior changes) -- which is different for every person. (I wonder how much motivation is helped by self-esteem? Both of the above were ... self-confident ....)

And none of this is likely to help with policing; fat is commonly seen as serving no useful purpose, while brutal policing can look good to anyone who sees only selected results.

OTOOH, there is a similarity that might be useful; MDs used to be trained to think of themselves as apart from the herd. (Yes, the effects of this training varied widely; I've known good people, and worked for one serious case.) Tearing down police academies and rebuilding on Peelist approaches may be the only long-term solution, but I wonder how much worse Peelist-trained rookies would be treated than standard-trained.

#204 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 03:18 PM:

NYT article suggests that the rate of police violence probably hasn't gone up much recently, though they don't have super solid data. There's a big focus in the MSM right now on cases where blacks get killed by the police, and that's driving a lot of stories that would previously have been local stories to become national ones. The result is that this kind of case becomes more visible, without necessarily becoming more common. (This is a really common problem with media consumption in general--when a particular kind of story gets hot, everyone reports that kind of story. A year later, that same kind of story never gets past the middle page of the newspaper.)

#205 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 04:15 PM:

albatross, #204: So in point of fact, it is highly probable that this appalling state of affairs has been going on for decades (or more), and was simply being mostly-successfully shoved under the rug until now.

That is, once again, not an argument for not doing anything about it, nor is it an argument for waiting until the next news-fad hits and all these cases can be shoved under the rug again. It's an argument for taking what actions we can to improve the situation now that we have been made aware of it. IMO that includes the removal of regulations which are designed to prevent police officers from facing the consequences of their actions when those actions go beyond the pale.

#206 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2015, 05:05 PM:

The other thing that needs to happen is that there need to be strict reporting and recordkeeping requirements. (Currently, state and local police are not required to report deaths of suspects in custody. This makes it damned difficult to round up any reliable statistics.)

#207 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 09:08 AM:

Lee:

No argument here. This is an opportunity to fix something broken, before public and media attention turn to the next celebrity scandal.

It's pretty important to understand what's going on to do that well, so I wish we had better data. I think Lila's right that we need good data collected on this. I seem to recall Radley Balko (whose reporting on this stuff is indispensible) writing about efforts in Maryland to require reporting of all SWAT team raids, no-knock warrants, forcible entries, etc. That won't help us so much this time, but this issue is likely to be active for a long time.

For right now, I'm concerned that the news coverage is focusing on deaths in police custody or at the hands of police (which is important but pretty rare), but not so much on more general police brutality. 99+% of the time, what happened to Freddie Gray would never have come to our attention, because he would merely have been covered in bruises and maybe had a broken ankle or something. Yet, having the cops beat people up (by hand or using the brakes of the police van) is a bad thing even if they manage to never kill anyone.

One question I have is how much of the problem is specifically racism, and how much is police impunity, and how much is police procedures. Each of those three can (and probably do) have a role, but it's not obvious how they split out. The right way to address the problem depends a great deal on what's causing the problem.

As an example of this, one thing that came out of the Ferguson story[1] was the way that a bunch of towns in the St Louis area run their budgets on revenue from fines. Running your police and court and jail system as a revenue source is an awful idea. It also hits poor people way harder than better-off people--there are a bunch of horror stories of people who can't pay their fines getting caught up in an endless spiral of increasing fines and jail time. Someone able to come up with the $300 of the original fine (from their own money or borrowing it from family or friends) could sidestep all that. Since blacks average lower incomes, less savings, and fewer friends and family with any money than whites, this all would land on them very heavily even if there were no prejudice in the enforcement of the laws at all. (Though apparently, those fines are also disproportionately collected from blacks.)

[1] Where the shooting of the black guy by the cop may have been justified--the evidence that finally came out looked to me like it was quite reasonable not to charge him.

#208 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 09:13 AM:

Chip:

There's a kind of "you can't handle the truth" type argument that's often made for police brutality, that basically the only way to keep order in really rough places is by having the police be brutal and terrorize the criminals out of sight of the citizens. I don't buy this here anymore than in the case of the war on terror, but it's a plausible-sounding argument, which is bolstered by a lot of TV shows.

#209 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 11:13 AM:

For what it's worth, I think the there's so much racism, so much police impunity, and so much justice system impunity that people should work on whatever part of the problem interests them the most, and be (at least) polite about people who are working on other parts of the problem.

#210 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 12:56 PM:

albatross @208: I think even if you concede the public's inability to "handle the truth" in the past (and concede that such brutality was an effective way to keep order, which I don't), the trouble is that today, it's becoming less and less possible to keep that sort of thing out of public view.

If police brutality when captured on video routinely leads to riots, then it's pretty clear that such brutality is no longer an effective way to keep the peace when most people habitually carry photo/audio/video recording devices at all times.

Even on purely pragmatic, amoral "hard-headed" grounds, brutality no longer "works". I'm not convinced it ever worked as well as its proponents claimed, but it definitely doesn't any more.

It would be wrong even if it "worked", but now it's counterproductive to boot.

#211 ::: Gerald Fnord ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 01:55 PM:

I agree with Coates' assessment except to the extent that I find the disparagement of calling for nonviolence halfway-in problematic for the simple reason that it's been over a century since any major perpetrator of violence hasn't claimed that it were in self-defence, be it individual or group. (This is also why I'm sceptical of the "libert"arian claim that their governments would only wage war in 'self-defence'---officially, so have all the wars to which they and I typically object.)

That is to say, generally and locally we have a history of violence, so to limit a call for non-violence to a situation in which there were no violence would mean that such calls would be few or absent. As to intent, opinion can reasonably vary as to whether in any given instance that non-violence were being preached to give the powerful a free pass, or because it were the more moral course, or the more practical course, or simple cowardice...though playing the percentages, I'd be less likely to ascribe an intent to shield the powerful when those not allied to them are making the call.

In fact, it is precisely when violence has already become evident that calling for it becomes emotionally (and so, politically) significant. An appeal to authority and to precedent is not definitive, but I'll note that the British in India and the white power structures in the U.S. South had long perpetrated violence against those who became partially led by people who thought non-violence the best course, and that those examples seem generally to have become approved-of.

#212 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 05:11 PM:

#207 ::: albatross

This is an opportunity that should not be wasted. The Baltimore mayor has asked for an investigation from the Justice Department. It will address discrimination as well as police procedures. I'm not sure what kind of penalties can be imposed and how they will relate to reform.

#211 ::: Gerald Fnord

In the end, and this wasn't clear when the article was written, there was less violence than many people thought that there would be. It seems to have brought plenty of attention and determination to reform. Unfortunately, the peaceful protests didn't get that type of response, in part because they were before the ten-day delay in law for charges against police to be brought. I think once the charges were brought, everybody knew that TPTB agreed that this was brutality and wrong.

Local angle on Baltimore. It's not only the National Guard that was called in to enforce the curfew, local police forces from other communities were brought in, including Montgomery County.

Timing angle. This week is the memorial for police officers killed in the line of duty.

#213 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 05:44 PM:

Ginger @188: Wow, that's doing it the hard way (having to take the extra exams).

UK veterinary schools are generally five years (six if intercalated, as at Cambridge, and some students in other universities) but you start right out of high school, not doing a degree beforehand. It was the final year that was "lecture free" i.e. all clinical when I went through and you had to do a lot of "seeing practice" (now called "extramural studies") in the last three years), but I think there's more push nowadays to make the courses more clinically relevant from earlier on.

#214 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 06:13 PM:

I have a cousin who's a vet at a clinic in Massachusetts. I don't know how his schooling worked out, but I know he went to Tufts for the veterinary part. (His BA is from Harvard, but what in, I don't know.)

#215 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 06:28 PM:

Albatross@207

I'm not sure it makes sense to try and split out the effects of racism, police impunity, and police procedures. I strongly suspect that it's the mutually reinforcing effects of the three that causes the problem.

(I'm reminded of statistician John Tukey's commentary on the insistence on splitting up effects between different factors: What proportion of the effect of shooting a gun comes from loading the gun and what proportion comes from pulling the trigger?)

#216 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 10:02 PM:

#215 ::: Michael I

The first round of statistics (particularly multi-factor statistics) was for farming, where small effects can still be used to improve crop yields. A lot of statistics training goes over and over the original data.

I agree that the investigation doesn't need to go deep into the weeds statistically for racism, just disproportionate effect should be enough. I think it will be more useful to review previous court cases against police, and training and procedures. That is for the investigation by the Justice Department.

For future statistics-keeping, there needs to be an Inspector General in the system. There is probably a large amount of time-keeping in the system, 911 calls have a time-stamp, dispatch has a time-stamp, arrival at station should have a time-stamp. In fact, many of the details we know about Freddie Gray come from time-stamp information. An Inspector General should review a random fraction of all arrests for consistent time-stamps. Maybe inspect prisoner seat belts for signs of use.

#217 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2015, 10:17 PM:

Gerald Fnord #211: Non-violence is a tactic, which is effective because it does interesting things to those human instincts relating to conflict.

Unfortunately, TPTB have developed counter-tactics, including shutting non-violent protestors out of the media¹, and/or supplying agents provocateurs to turn a non-violent protest into a supposedly violent one. (The Occupy movement in turn developed its own countertactics against provocateurs, but couldn't do much about the shutout.)

¹ The media is often blamed for "if it bleeds it leads", but I have to wonder how much of that gets politically "encouraged".

#218 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2015, 03:21 AM:

Lady Kay @216

Rothamsted. Some of the statistical research is visible from orbit.

As any Hobden knows, no field is consistent. Different parts have slightly different soil and water availability. What they did was to figure out a way of distinguishing the different effects.

If I wanted to know whether US Police have a particular problem, comparisons with other countries would be an early step. But you have to take into account the population differences. The UK Police have a killing rate that is incredibly low by US standards. We also don't have a huge population segment descended from slaves.

Just limiting the comparisons to US policing only could be misleading. But it feels a little too easy to take an obvious element and twist it to suit. Just apply the usual Blame the Victim line.

John Laws at Rothamsted was looking for useful correlations (and he wanted to sell fertiliser). And the things he found, like effects of good drainage, happened to work. But correlation is not causation, and he wasn't looking for somebody to blame.

#219 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2015, 04:01 AM:

Rothamstead: by a curious coincidence, I used 32 years of weather data from Rothamstead in my PhD...

#220 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2015, 09:30 AM:

Lady Kay #212:

The whole discussion of peaceful protests not getting attention, but riots getting lots of attention, makes me think of this amazing SSC post. It's long, but very much worth reading.

A too-short summary: The way media and public attention works rewards outragous ideas and actions. Calm, moderate behavior and rhetoric gets very little attention, and so people and organizations who need public attention (and don't have gazillions of dollars to buy media time) have a big incentive for outrageous behavior and rhetoric.

#221 ::: Wyn ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2015, 11:42 PM:

I wish we had Sam Vimes and Carrot Ironfoundersson handy. Due South's Ben Fraser would be another good recruit.

I'm Canadian and white and middle-class, so I don't feel qualified to say much. I feel like the US is having tentative skirmishes in what could -- and many places and times, would have -- become a revolution or civil war. Non-violent protests are a very polite and patient way to respond to this degree of injustice and oppression, especially given the even worse history.

What might happen if black Americans pulled a Bloc Quebecois[1] at any level? Form their own political party and run on a platform of real-life equality and of rebuilding the neighbourhoods and economy of the urban poor? It might not take the overall majority, but could it win enough seats to gain some genuine clout? Would that improve anything?

[1] Bloc Quebecois: Canadian political party whose mandate was to represent Quebec's interests at the national level. Strong left-leaning policies on healthcare, childcare, and other social issues also attracted voters. They were Canada's official Opposition party for quite some time. Since the Bloc's fall from grace, Quebec leans hard left with the NDP.

#222 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 12:19 PM:

Wyn @ 221: Pessimistic and simplifying response: from what I could see from the outside, the Bloc managed two difficult actions: linking rural and urban interests, and getting rural interests that ran conservative (cf "Je me souviens") to lean liberal as you describe. In the US, the rural poor are encouraged to see urban poverty as a moral and racial failure and "socialism" as a bugaboo (see What's the Matter with Kansas?), and not unite with either; since city services (and city-oriented regional services like mass transit) tend to require economic support from state and federal authorities, a city-based party would quickly be seriously hosed (possibly analogous to current Greece, where the current government is finding there's too much they just can't do?).

#223 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 12:50 PM:

Wyn @221: Note that the US system, at least in most states and at the Federal level, is not a parliamentary system, and structurally doesn't encourage coalitions between parties (though some cities have the mayor chosen from among the city council, which is vaguely parliamentary-ish). As a result, the US has always had a 2-party system, though the names and makeups of those parties have changed over time. See xkcd for an amazing visualization of this at the Federal level.

In the US, minority parties (here typically referred to as "third parties") only operate as spoilers. In the last decade there's been an increase in paranoia about 3rd parties being surreptitiously supported by the major party at the far side of the spectrum, specifically to pull support away from the other major party (the one the 3rd party is closest to). See Wikipedia for a list of examples.

#224 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 01:22 PM:

Jeremy, #223: It's not all paranoia. Rolling Stone had a very thorough and well-researched expose a few years back about how Nader was bankrolled and given campaign organizational support by the Republicans in 2004 for the specific purpose of drawing votes away from the Democrats.

#225 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 01:33 PM:

223/224
I seem to recall that the Greens in Pennsylvania, in one recent election, were bought by the GOP as spoilers.

#226 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 02:05 PM:

Watching the British election results come in, I see lots of third parties, and they seem very regional/national: Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, DUP and UUP in Northern Ireland. And the Bloc Quebecois is also regional with that national independence idea.

Could that happen in the United States? There are some strong-ish regional identities: the New England states, the Old South, the industrial MidWest, the Mountain West/Big Sky country, and the West Coast. The New England states do have a few regional agreements on energy and watersheds, primarily. I think the New England states (including MD) are at a similar level of dealing and/or failing to deal with urban racial problems.

City politics can't do it since funding happens at the state and federal level, and the federal level is organized mostly by states. But regional groups of states could push forward policies that are more-or-less city-oriented. It's an idea, anyway.

The problem is that these groupings aren't well-defined or stable. For a lot of issues, MD works with VA, DC, DE and WV, not with PA, NY, NJ, etc. So MD is a border case. Virginia (VA) and West Virginia (WV) have less urban orientation.

What about Texas? Is it Old South or Mountain West?

What about Wisconsin? Industrial MidWest or Big Sky Country?

#227 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 02:12 PM:

What about Texas? It is neither Mountain West nor Old South -- the key is to remember that its existence springs from a rebellion against Mexico. For a time, it was a country in its own right, and chose to become a member of the United States.

THAT'S why it's so weird, and why there is still talk of secession there.

#228 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 02:40 PM:

An urban-oriented party is likely to come from the New England group and the Industrial MidWest, maybe the West Coast.

Yes, Texas has a very different history, but I could see it making common cause with Oklahoma or with Louisiana. Maybe an Oil Patch group?

I really don't think the regional identities are strong enough to move to regional parties. Some forces pull towards one grouping, others pull to a different grouping or to the whole country level.

I do think that a stronger regional identity would defuse some of the conflicts in the US. Areas that were heavily rural can have much looser gun control and areas that were heavily urban can have tighter rules, for example.

Already the largest cities tend to hire police chiefs and school superintendents from other large cities, because the experience is directly similar. Doesn't allow for new ideas (as we talked about earlier in this thread) but does reduce the learning curve.

#229 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2015, 02:42 PM:

"Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you!"

#231 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2015, 04:15 PM:

Why it's hard to reform the police, limked from Radley Balko's blog.

#232 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2015, 11:03 AM:

I very much recommend this post on Radley Balko's blog for a discussion of the difficulties of police reform.

#233 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2015, 11:32 AM:

#232 ::: albatross

I also think too much of the public wants fantasies of impunity, and that's why there's so much support for unlimited police power.

#234 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2015, 11:59 AM:

Lori, #227: Texas may not be in the traditional "Old South", but it was a slave state and part of the Confederacy and is far more aligned with that area than with the West. For all practical purposes, it can be considered part of the Old South.

Lady Kay, #228: I honestly don't see any way for a regional third party to get started in America; the entire system is set up to prevent it, and many people here aren't even aware of the possibility. If they think about third parties at all, they think in national terms, like the Libertarians or Greens.

#235 ::: Lady Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2015, 04:25 PM:

An effective Inspector General's office would be useful. It would examine the statistics, investigate citizens' complaints, and look at the use of resources. It would probably report to the Mayor's Office and perhaps to the city council.

If it was given a mandate to do so, it could do other cross-checks on the police force. It could collect statistics on detentions that didn't result in an arrest, for example. If the IG office became a standard part of large police departments, they could investigate other police departments. It would all depend on how their remit is written and who would be using them, likely the Mayor or the city council. But if the Mayor or the city council is not using the office to find brutality problems, then the ballot box would need to be used to "fix" the Mayor or the city council.

It has the advantage of being a familiar part of military forces and of the federal government. Sometimes states have IG offices also. It has a bit of a disadvantage since they are usually associated with investigating spending rather than citizens' complaints.

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