U of C students continue calls to abolish the campus police after three murders of students and a new incident when a man fired at a cop

February 11, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I swear, there is no sight more ridiculous than a group of college students demanding to abolish a campus police department right after cop shoots a guy in self defense after the perp started shooting at the cop!   And this is a particularly sad but egregious case, because the perp was walking down the street waving a handgun, shooting it in the air . And then he started firing at a campus cop when the cop pulled up and demanded that the guy drop to the ground. It turns out the perp was mentally ill and off his meds, and was out on a declared mission to commit “suicide by cop.” He wanted that violence. And yet the students blame the cops!

And all of this is happening in an academic year when three of our own students were killed off campus by robbers or after being hit in other gunfights  It’s been the worst year for off-campus violence in the 36 years I’ve been here. Yet student calls to abolish the campus cops (note: not defund them—ABOLISH them) get more persistent. 

I happened upon the most recent incident about an hour after the shooting described below took place. I was going to get fruit and veg, but four or five blocks around the small shopping center had been rendered off-limits with yellow tape, and cops were everywhere. When I asked one what had happened, he wouldn’t tell me (this laconic response, which is probably the legal response, is common). But the story was on the news that night, and an account appeared in our increasingly woke student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon (I will make no puns here). Here’s the account (click on screenshot):


The details:

A man was wounded in a shootout with the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) late Tuesday morning near the intersection of East 53rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue.

A UCPD officer encountered the man carrying a handgun near 53rd and Woodlawn at 11:43 a.m. on Tuesday, according to an email sent to the University community by Eric Heath, the University’s associate vice president for safety and security.

According to University reports, the officer stopped his vehicle to investigate, after which the man fired shots and the officer ordered him to get on the ground. The individual then came in the direction of the officer, who fired his weapon and struck the individual twice in the thigh, Heath wrote in the email. Chicago Police Department (CPD) units were called to the scene soon after, according to police scanner reports.

According to a follow-up email sent by Heath on Wednesday, UCPD supplied the individual with medical aid before taking him into custody and bringing him to the University of Chicago Medical Center. The man is currently in critical condition, according to Heath’s second email.

Heath’s email stated that no one else was injured in the incident.

CPD and the University are both conducting investigations into the event. “Preliminary evidence indicates that the suspect began firing shots before he reached the intersection, and also fired at the officer,” a University spokesperson told The Maroon.

You can see some video here (note that the bodycam video starts 30 seconds in as there is a time delay):

On Wednesday, UCPD released videos of the shooting taken from the officer’s body camera and two security cameras at Kimbark Plaza. The body camera footage indicates that the officer fired three shots before the individual can be seen advancing, then two shots that struck the man. The officer then moved behind a parked vehicle and fired another four shots. At the end of the video, the man is seen on the ground.

The perp is identified as Rysheen Wilson.

And a walk-through of the videos by the Hyde Park Herald is here.  If you watch them, the beginning of the altercation is a bit unclear because the bodycam hadn’t started, but other evidence recently presented by the State’s Attorney shows that the suspect fired at the officer first, and only then did the officer take refuge behind a wall, order the suspect to get to the ground, and then shoot him when the man continued firing at the cop. The man was, as noted above, given medical aid and taken to the U of C hospital. He’s no longer in critical condition, and has been charged, among other things, with attempted murder of a police officer. (If Wilson is convicted, that will pretty much bring him a life sentence

The Chicago Sun-Times article (below) notes that the perp himself, before he went traipsing down the street waving his gun, called 911 and told the City of Chicago Police that he had a gun and wanted to commit “suicide by cop” (i.e., provoke the cops to shoot him). It’s pretty clear that the guy has some serious mental issues—watch some of the video when he’s dancing around waving the pistol:

The article shows that Wilson did suffer from serious mental problems. This is a tragedy, because perhaps if he’d stayed on his meds he might not have provoked this incident. But we can’t hold Wilson innocent, nor especially hold the cops culpable, when a mentally ill person begins shooting at police and the cops shoot back:

Wilson, 27, was “having mental issues” when he called his cousin Tuesday morning and told him where he was, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said in court. The cousin found him crying and talking about killing himself, Murphy said.

Wilson — who suffers from schizophrenia, PTSD and mood swings — was off his medication, Murphy said.

Wilson ran away from his cousin, pulled out a gun and called 911, Murphy said, telling the dispatcher his name, giving a description of what he was wearing and where he was.

The University of Chicago cop didn’t know about the 911 call, and the incident occurred when the patrolling officer drove by the man waving his gun. Nor, of course, did the officer know that Wilson was mentally ill—not that it would (or should) have made a difference in the cop’s behavior.

[Officer Nicholas] Twardak was driving down the street and saw Wilson pointing a gun at him and slowed down, Murphy said. As the officer stepped out his squad car, Wilson allegedly opened fire at Twardak.

The officer ran for cover toward parked cars on the other side of the street, and then moved to the front porch of a brick home as Wilson continued firing, Murphy said. Using the brick stoop as cover, the officer fired at Wilson, then repeatedly ordered Wilson to get on the ground, Murphy said.

Wilson moved toward the officer’s squad car in the middle of the street, and the officer fired at Wilson again and struck him, Murphy said. Wilson suffered two gunshot wounds to the thigh, two to the lower leg and one to the groin.

As Twardak approached, Wilson said he “wanted to bleed out,” Murphy said.

Three witnesses saw the shooting unfold, including a person in a car in Wilson’s line of fire. She reversed the car and then noticed bullet holes in her windshield and hood, Murphy said.

The sad irony of this is that officer Twardak was also involved in a 2018 incident when he shot (but didn’t kill) a mentally ill student who was having a breakdown and, after breaking windows and bashing up cars, charged the cop with a metal stake. Again ordered to drop the stake, the student continued to rush the cop and the cop defended himself shooting the student in the shoulder. I feel bad for everybody here, but one should also have sympathy for the cop instead of characterizing him as a serial shooter, as some students have done.  As far as I can see in both cases, the cop had no choice but to defend himself.

Those facts nonwithstanding, the organization #CareNotCops has increased the volume of its cry to “defund the U of C police”.  Their object, as you can see from the hashtag, is to argue that proper therapy and mental-illness treatment is a good substitute for police.  But not in this case, and not in the three cases of our murdered students this year—all killed by people outside the University community. Of course it’s possible that, at least in the 2018 case, therapy might have prevented the nonfatal shooting. But the victim, Charles Thomas, did not seek therapy, and went on to commit other crimes. He’s left the University but has completed a program that keeps him out of jail. Thomas’s lawsuit that he was shot in violation of regulations was dismissed.

And so a band of badly misguided students are blaming the police, and seeking their disbanding, in response to an increase in violence against students that could not possibly be stopped by “care”. What kind of crazy world do these students live in?

Here’s a Maroon article on the latest campus rally to protest the shooting of the guy who wanted to commit “suicide by cop” (click on screenshot):

Check out this logic:

#CareNotCops (CNC), a student group dedicated to the abolition of the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) in favor of investing in South Side communities and mental health services, gathered on the main quad in front of Levi Hall at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, February 4, to protest the recent shooting of community member Rhysheen Wilson by a UCPD officer.

Fourth-year CNC organizer Alicia Hurtado began the rally by giving a speech calling for the abolition of UCPD. They asserted that far too many UCPD encounters with community members result in “escalation, violence, and criminalization.”

Hurtado spoke out against the increased patrols and surveillance that the University instituted in response to 24-year-old recent UChicago graduate Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng being shot and killed during an attempted robbery at 956 East 54th Place on November 9.

“When the University announced their expansion of their private armed police force, I knew that it only had one predictable outcome,” Hurtado said. “That outcome was not safety or an answer to gun violence.”

The students want safety (see the Maroon article below) but when a student gets killed during a robbery, they get angry at the subsequent increase in policing. What on earth do they want? Patrolling therapists? (Click on screenshot):

Next, Hopie Melton, a third-year CNC member, read a statement on behalf of Students for Disability Justice (SDJ), an advocacy organization that promotes disability activism and discussion within the University community and Chicagoland. The organization said that UCPD and emergency dispatchers are not properly trained to handle mental health crises and unnecessarily escalate many confrontations as a result. SDJ also demanded that the University further invest in mental health services.

“[UCPD] responds to every situation with the same heavy-handed, violent approach, leaving behind the people that need our help the most,” Melton said, reading the statement. “Our Black neighbors are under constant surveillance. Our mad and neurodivergent neighbors are judged and have been pathologized for their differences. Our disabled neighbors are under constant threat, and UChicago acts as a further disabling force.”

This is, as John McWhorter notes, the voice of religion.

No, the two mentally ill people WERE ATTACKING THE CAMPUS POLICE OFFICERS, one with a metal stake and the other with a gun. How would proper mental health training of cops have changed that situation?

Now of course with mental health problems among young people rising rapidly, it behooves any school to ensure that proper therapy is in place. College is a stressful time. But it also behooves the students to develop some sense about how the world works. When a guy is trying to kill you with a gun, you don’t yell at him, “Go home and take your meds!”

MSNBC bashes Jussie Smollett’s guilty verdict as the “crowning jewel” of the Right, a verdict that empowers Trump and his minions

December 10, 2021 • 12:15 pm

I’ve heard of the Right bashing MSNBC as  the Left-wing equivalent of Breitbart, but I never read or watch MSNBC, so I had no opinion. But my attention was called this morning to two articles on MSNBC that criticize the Smollett verdict—or rather, wring their hands over it—because, say the writers, it gives succor to the right and to Donald Trump and his supporters. And it will hurt members of the LBGTQ community as well, as people won’t believe any claims of gender-based hate crime.

I couldn’t believe this line of thought, but you could read the articles below.  My take on the verdict is that justice was done, that there wasn’t going to be much political fallout except for racists being glad that a black man was convicted, and that, overall, the verdict was not only just, but useful in deterring future hoaxers from trying the same thing. There’s a penalty if you get caught. I was satisfied that justice was done.

But the first article, below, blames the guilty verdict on a proposed future in which LGBTQ people will not be believed when they report real hate crimes. (Smollett is gay.) That’s really messed up: what will make people less likely to believe the claims of victims is HOAX CLAIMS by LGBTQ people: that is, what Smollett did, not what the jury did. What planet does Zach Stafford live on?

Click to read:

First Stafford dismisses any importance of the actual truth of what Smollett claimed, or of the verdict’s affirmation that he lied (my emphasis):

The Jussie Smollett saga may now be technically over after a Chicago jury found the actor guilty Thursday of five of the six counts he faced, but its impact will be — and has already been — felt for years to come. It doesn’t matter if the actor, who starred on “Empire,” really was beaten up by people yelling “This is MAGA country!” and is wrongly being punished or if he did stage an elaborate hoax, as the jury decided he did by finding him guilty of five counts of disorderly conduct.

No, this is what matters:

Instead, the seemingly never-ending questions over the almost three years regarding the truthfulness of his account means the indisputable victims of hate crimes will now carry an even heavier burden of suspicion.

The only winners found as the dust settles are the members of the right who have declared themselves America’s real victims of hate and discrimination — people who have strategically made the Smollett case their go-to example for how the left operates and how it wrongly makes villains out of Donald Trump supporters.

Meaning Smollett’s guilty verdict is their new crowning jewel as our culture wars rage on.

(I believe he means “crown jewel”.)

For crying out loud! Justice was done in this case, and all Stafford worries about is whether the Right will use the verdict to support their crusade against LGBTQ rights? But you know what? The Right will use what they can use, and beefing that Smollett was found guilty will not change that. Similarly, the Left will use what the Left can use, as it did with Smollett’s initial claims. Does Stafford wish he’d been found innocent, even though a ton of evidence said that he was guilty?

Stafford first revealed how the Left buttressed Smollett, as this tweet from Bari Weiss shows. Yes, people weighed in before the fact, jumping to conclusions. But there was no trial, so all I thought was that his story sounded fishy and if he were tried, he’d likely be convicted. As a scientist, one withholds judgment until evidence starts appearing.

Then Stafford gets distraught because as the hoax began to be uncovered, Trump and his son went on social media talking about the flaws of the media, “fake news”, and mocking the “MAGA hat wearing” that was part of Smollett’s claims.

Here’s how Stafford winds up, and I’m not sure what he’s trying to say.

We couldn’t help but cover the story of a Black, gay celebrity who said he’d been attacked by Trump supporters. This wasn’t just because it was a story involving a famous member of the community we covered, but also because for many of us who had been reporting on anti-LGBTQ crimes for years, we believed his case might help shine a light on the fact that LGBTQ folks — especially trans people — were dying at historic rates in the streets. Smollett claimed to have been attacked in those same streets.

Since journalists began accurately reporting trans homicides in the early 2010s, we have consistently seen a rise in anti-LGBTQ violence, with 2021 being the deadliest year on record, specifically for trans people. Black people in this country, regardless of their sexuality, also find themselves over-represented in FBI data documenting hate crimes in the U.S. each year.

With this guilty verdict, it’s really those people who lost — not just Smollett — with the winners being people who are now more emboldened in demanding even more from victims before receiving justice. Sure, Smollett may have lied — or at least was found guilty of it. But statistically most people who report these cases do not lie and are rarely ever believed.

What is so important for us to do in this moment, as we look to what’s next, is to ensure work is done to stop the epidemic of hate facing folks who look like Smollett. Trump supporters are not being subjected to hate crimes for supporting Trump on any level — full stop.

Nor are Biden supporters being subjected to hate crimes for supporting Biden on any level—full stop.

Is Stafford implying that the verdict should have been “not guilty”, thus helping all the true victims of LGBTQ hate crimes down the line? Or is he just bewailing the fact that it will be harder to take those claims seriously? If the latter, then he should be blaming Smollett,  There is no reason to drag the verdict itself into the fight for LGBTQ rights, which is a good fight.  If Stafford is saying that he wished, in the face of the evidence, that the jury should have acquitted Smollett (perhaps for the greater good, which is NOT a reason for a verdict), then god help him.

This piece by Ja’han jones is too slight to have been published, but there is a telling bit at the end. Click to read:

The last bit:

Smollett held throughout the trial that the incident was not a hoax.

Nonetheless, the strange, seemingly ever-changing details in the case have provided nearly three years’ worth of material for comedians and online commentators. Some of it has been quite funny, in fact.

Even more comical, in my view, was the predictable conservative outrage over Smollett’s allegations. Conservatives took to social media in 2019 to express outrage over the dropped charges. How dare someone make such a heinous claim about followers of their dear leader, they screeched. Violent, masked white guys who shout Trump slogans and use chemical agents to attack victims?

Many on the right shamed those of us who knew such a claim was totally plausible — and then the Jan. 6 insurrection happened.

Well, one could say that it was equally funny to see the credulous Left accept such a dubious story.  If Jones thought that Smollett’s story was “totally plausible”, he must have been smoking something. Of course I wouldn’t have thought that the January insurrection was plausible, either, but there are plenty of readers here who either thought it possible or were not surprised when it did happen.

But all this is what we Jews call “pilpul”:  meaningless and endless debate about matters of little consequence. Both writers are trying to make political hay out of a verdict that was just and, in fact, will probably deter hate crimes if it has any effect at all.

Happy Friday!

Among student calls to defund and abolish the U of C police, three students are murdered

November 21, 2021 • 12:15 pm

Over the last year we’ve heard many calls to “Defund the Police”, which varied in intent from simply reforming the police and perhaps diverting money to ancillary law-enforcement operation (some of which sound good, like psychiatric social workers going along on domestic violence calls) to asking for a complete abolition of the police department and a replacement with. . . what? Vigilante neighborhood police enforcement? Somehow, despite the problems of police departments, I’ve never seen an adequate substitute.  And now the movement is largely dead, thanks to two factors: a rise in crime rates throughout the U.S., and especially a rise in homicides, as well as Joe Biden’s election under his promise that he’d increase police funding.

Combined with the calls for defunding is a complete demonization of the police, epitomized by the acronym “ACAB”, meaning “all cops are bastards”.  That is of course ridiculous. While everyone admits that some cops are racist, or authoritarian, or hateful, this is simply not true of the majority of them. My interactions with the police, whether I’ve called them or have been stopped for speeding, have been polite and formal, though of course I will be told that as a white person I don’t experience the full racism of the cops. So if you want to characterize “all” cops as bastards, be my guest, but I think you’re way off. But defund them? No way.

In fact, no city has voted to get rid of or defund its police departments, and the American public has consistently asked—and this includes black communities—for more policing.

Except at the University of Chicago.

While all the sensible people here are grateful for the University of Chicago Police force, which has 24 hour policing over a wide swath of the community (not just the University grounds), as well as full police powers and good communication with the Chicago City Police, the students, who take the “ACAB” attitude, want the University cops gone, banished, singing in the Choir Invisible.

Submitted for your approval: an editorial from the Chicago student newspaper’s editorial team calling for the abolition of our large campus police. Click on the screenshot to read:

An excerpt:

The University of Chicago should abolish the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) and replace it with an unarmed emergency response service better trained and equipped to handle particular, commonly occurring University-related situations. The UCPD has been, and continues to be, one of the main agents of the University of Chicago’s history of racial injustice on the South Side. Community members at UChicago and its surrounding neighborhoods have been aware of this for many years, and the University can take action on police brutality by disarming and disbanding the UCPD. Disbanding and replacing the University’s private police force would place the area currently patrolled by UCPD under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Police Department (CPD), and will not by itself solve the numerous problems endemic to the CPD. However, by disbanding the UCPD, the University can begin to make right its numerous historical wrongs perpetrated against South Siders.

As with many issues of social justice at UChicago, students have demanded better from administrators for years. #CareNotCops, a joint campaign run by Students Working Against Prisons and UC United, has been leading the charge to abolish UCPD, and organizers recently released a list of demands to defund and eventually disband the UCPD. In response to administrators’ refusal to engage with students and community members about policing, activists demanding a public meeting with Michelle Rasmussen and Kenton Rainey occupied UCPD headquarters for 20 hours on June 12. Organizers have been demanding substantial changes to UCPD for years, and we encourage students to get involved with these long running police abolition efforts—and administrators to break their habit of rebuffing students.

. . . By disarming and disbanding the UCPD, the University of Chicago can take an active stance against police violence and institutional racism, and work toward providing campus services that meet the specific needs of the University community.

The rationale hinges largely on racism: that most of police stops involve black suspects or people. But the ambit of the Chicago police force includes more black than white residents, and there’s the issue that the crime rate among blacks is higher than among whites, particularly on the South Side of Chicago (an area where blacks far outnumber whites—except in Hyde Park). Then there’s the issue of the cops shooting a mentally ill student experiencing a psychotic break when he charged the cops with a steel rod (he was shot in the shoulder). This was pure self-defense by the campus cops, but the students see it as racism (the student, Charles Thomas, is partly a person of color), and of police going willy nilly with violence.

So far the administration has held firm, refusing to “defund” or reduce the police force, leading to a student group occupying the police station (they left after they weren’t allowed to use the police bathrooms or order out for pizza), and camping in the street in front of the Provost’s house, painting rude slogans in Chinese in the street (our Provost is a woman of Asian descent).

Now the dilemma of the “defund the policers” has increased as three students have been killed via shooting in the last few weeks (see the links below), as well as an increase in other crimes in the area, like robbery and carjacking. Will the students now see the wisdom of increasing the police presence? Don’t bet on it. Even after three murders, the misguided #CareNotCops organization put out this Facebook notice for a rally:

No more cops! No more cameras! In fact, the murderer of the latest dead student was caught with the help of the new cameras. Apparently, the group doesn’t want crime to decrease, nor do they want justice for crimes committed.

Read the “questions” the newspaper is asking about the shootings (click on screenshot below):

Now they’re beefing about the fact that the students got killed. Where were the cops? Why haven’t they done anything?

What countermeasures has the University taken to keep students safe after the first fatal shooting? The second? The third? Why have they in each case been insufficient at preventing additional student deaths?


It’s possible that the measures I’ve mentioned and other ones that the University has taken, such as increasing police presence, may well have prevented even more violence. So, I hesitate to say that the University’s responses have been totally ineffective. But, as this third fatal shooting has demonstrated, they have been insufficient.

Does this student think that police can completely eliminate crime here—or anywhere? That’s insane. But yes, the three shootings are a big concern, and are mirrored by the big increase in shooting deaths in Chicago this year compared to last, even in the ritzy downtown area.  But what I’d like to ask these students is this: “Where were you when you should have been defending rather than defunding the cops?”  Do you think violence will abate if we get rid of our campus police? How would that work?

There’s more in the article:

In the four quarters since January, three current or recent students—Yiran Fan, Max Solomon Lewis, and Shaoxiong Zheng—have been shot and killed. At this rate, before I graduate, eight more of my classmates will die.

Or I will die.

I no longer buy the “random acts of violence” argument. Students are clearly in imminent mortal danger—even in the daytime, even close to campus, even when we act safely.

What will the University do to protect us?

In fact, the University, in response to these incidents, is doing a lot more to protect not just people associated with the school, but with a residents of huge area north and south of the University. Five days ago our Provost and new President, after some public forums and Zoom discussions, issued an official University statement outlining changes in policing. Here’s what is going to happen (a quote from the report).

  • Increase in police patrols: UCPD and the Chicago Police Department (CPD) have coordinated to increase enforcement of traffic safety in the extended patrol area and increase foot and vehicular patrols on and near campus and throughout Hyde Park. This includes joint robbery-directed patrols as well as increasing enforcement of traffic safety violations. In addition to reducing the likelihood of traffic accidents, the visibility of traffic safety enforcement can help deter criminals. The University has also expanded its Safety Ambassador program into nearby communities.
  • Additional use of security technology: CPD is temporarily adding more Police Observation Device (POD) camera technology to the Hyde Park area. The University is working with CPD and local aldermen to develop a long-term strategy for adding permanent technology solutions to the areas surrounding campus. The University already operates many security cameras and fixed license plate readers and is working to add more. The University is also exploring how to use the current technology more effectively to inform the deployment of our officers.
  • Expansion of Lyft program: The Lyft Ride Smart program, which offers students free Lyft rides in the Hyde Park/Kenwood/Woodlawn area, has been temporarily extended from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights to seven nights a week. This is in addition to the University’s extensive and recently expanded shuttle program, available to all members of the campus community.
  • Planning with city and community: The University has been in close contact on safety issues with Mayor Lightfoot, local aldermen, and other Chicago public leaders, and UCPD is working closely with CPD on these issues. The City is formalizing, with the University’s involvement, a number of short and longer-term public safety strategies that will help Hyde Park and surrounding communities. We will share specifics soon.
  • Gathering input: The University is gathering input on public safety from all parts of the University community, with faculty and other academic appointees being major constituents in this effort. We will communicate soon about additional opportunities to discuss these important issues.

What is not going to happen is a reduction in the police budget or staff. In addition, in a University safety webinar with the President, the Chicago Police Superintendent, and the director of safety, the Superintendent announced that they’re putting 26 new beat cops in Area 2: the area around Hyde Park and the University.

Those who want the cops defunded become far less credible when crime shoots up. Their “demands” are not only ridiculous, but make the Left look ridiculous as well. If anything plays into the hands of the Republicans and Trump, it’s the claim that the Left, including woke students, are soft on crime, and in fact want to get rid of cops.  If there was an actual reason to get rid of cops, then we could think about that. But right now, the defunders should simply zip it: there’s no justification for their demand and they are driving centrists toward the Right.

Really? Defund the police?

August 10, 2021 • 11:15 am

Cori Bush, a Congresswoman representing Missouri’s First Congressional District, is one of those people who want to defund the police. And yet she has her own private security detail for which her office, according to the article discussed below, paid nearly $70,00 for just 2.5 months this year.  Here’s her rationale on Twitter:

According to Woodhouse’s piece on defunding the police (below), “When asked about this apparent hypocrisy, [Bush’s] answer was sharp, “Would you rather see me die?”

Bush’s further rationale, as told to CBS News, was that her funds, unlike “regular” police funds, were being used to protect her from white supremacists who would try to kill her. But that’s the same reason that the defunders give for not having any police! At any rate, I suspect that she, like all members of Congress, could get a public security detail if her life was really threatened.

According to the article below, which just appeared on Bari Weiss’s Substack site, most of those who want to deep-six the cops seem to be from areas that don’t have much crime, and are mostly white. In contrast, black people, often living in crime-ridden areas, often want more police presence, and don’t favor defunding. I think that’s borne out by statistics, too, but I don’t have them at hand. All I know is that night after night I hear black people on the local news, people who have lost loved ones to gun violence, demanding that our mayor cough up more police presence.

Click the screenshot to read Woodhouse’s piece (he’s a documentary filmmaker and journalist):

I’ve already given his argument: those who call for defunding the cops are those who aren’t desperate for more police protection. Here I just want to relate a few anecdotes from Woodhouse’s piece, as some of the defunders are absolutely unbelievable. When they say “defunding” they really do mean no more police.  When asked what will replace the cops, they mumble about social workers and negotiators. Well, those people do have a place working with police, and I strongly believe there should be a place for non-police, like those experienced with domestic violence, to work with the police to minimize violence and show up after 911 calls. But to drastically cut police budgets to do that? I’m not a fan.

Meet a big-time defunder:

This typifies the split between the two sides of this debate: critics from the neighborhoods most affected by violence tend to regard the defund crowd as outsiders with their own agenda. Defund advocates, meanwhile, tend to regard those critics as either corrupted or manipulated by the police.

Foremost among those advocates is Cat Brooks, the co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, one of the main groups pushing for defunding the Oakland Police Department. She was brought up in Las Vegas by a white mother who was an anti-domestic violence activist. Her father, a black man, struggled with substance abuse and ended up in prison. “I watched him be terrorized and traumatized by law enforcement,” she recalled.

While pursuing a career in acting in Los Angeles, Brooks stumbled into political activism, which eventually brought her to Oakland. In 2018, she ran for mayor, coming in second with about a quarter of the vote.

When I asked Brooks about the two Council members — both black — who voted against the reduction in the police budget she was unambiguous in her contempt. They are “representing the interests of the police, and they’re representing the interests of development,” she said. “If they were representing the interests of the people, then they, too, should want black bodies to stop falling.” [JAC: could these people please stop using “black bodies” to mean “black people”? It’s at least as dehumanizing as saying “slaves” for “enslaved people.”]

But Taylor [an Oakland councilman who voted against defunding] questions who Brooks’ group represents. “A significant amount of that movement calling for defunding without regard for those calling for service don’t reflect my community,” he said. “They’re not the ones making the two-thirds of the calls to 911.”

This is a sad tale of a meeting of the two sides, then we get back to the odious Cat:

Last month, the two sides met face to face at a rally to stop gun violence at Oakland’s Lake Merritt that was organized, in part, by the police department. I wasn’t there, but my colleague Lee Fang was. He described the scene as “surreal,” with families, mostly African-American, mourning the deaths of their loved ones, while a small group of mostly white protesters jeered at them for collaborating with the police. Towers, who attended the event and spoke directly to the protesters, described them as “a lot of white folks that don’t even live out here.”

This reminds me of the white folks eager to say “Latinx” to show their savvy when speaking of Hispanics. Only 4% of real Latinas and Latinos would choose “Latinx” as their self description, with 61% preferring “Hispanics”. So let’s cut out the “Latinx” nonsense as well!

But I digress; let’s return to Cat:

When I asked Brooks if she supports the abolition of police, she said, “Absolutely. Unapologetically.” Describing the role of the police in society, she said, “Their job is to maintain the status quo. And the status quo is race-based capitalism. And so they are the front line soldiers of the larger system of white supremacy, which is the engine of this country, both here locally and globally.”

Now there’s a mouthful of unthinking jargon for you!  I wonder what Cat would replace with the police with, or would she just let criminals go wild. Too bad Woodhouse didn’t ask her that question.

After Woodhouse visits a black barbershop and heard most of the customers denying that white cops killing black people is the big problem, but rather blacks killing other blacks, he returns to the protest and gives a few anecdotes that show the usual suspects mouthing woke sentiments:

The consensus in the room echoed what I heard from Chief Armstrong and Councilman Taylor rather than the worldview of the anti-police protesters at Lake Merritt holding signs reading “Quit Your Job, KKKop.”

On the national stage, though, the “KKKop” message has real resonance. Cori Bush has compared policing to slavery. So has Jamaal Bowman, a recently elected congressman from the Bronx. Rep. Rashida Tlaib has called policing “inherently and intentionally racist” and said that it “can’t be reformed.” The same arguments have been published in The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Yes, do check the links, because they say what Woodhouse said they said.  The world is insane—or at least a big slice of it is.

Why the big increase in U.S. murders? Andrew Sullivan has a theory which is his.

June 12, 2021 • 12:45 pm

We know two things: that the murder and shooting rate in America has gone sky high, especially in big cities, and we know that, at the same time, many on the Left are trying to defund the police. Now police reform is one thing (I do approve of social workers going along on calls that require that kind of treatment), but deeply cutting police budgets right now is a recipe for disaster—disaster for both human lives and for the Democratic Party.

In Chicago, for instance, 289 people have already been killed this year, and the year is barely half over. But that’s already 16 more people killed than in all of 2020! If you extrapolate the present rate to the entire year, it would represent an increase of about 96% over 2020! In the article below, which reports similar increases elsewhere and tries to find a cause, Andrew Sullivan summarizes the data, drawing from the New York Times:

Here’s the NYT summary of the data, to start with:

Homicide rates in large cities were up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year, according to criminologists … Homicides in Portland, Ore., rose to 53 from 29, up more than 82 percent; in Minneapolis, they grew to 79 from 46, up almost 72 percent; and in Los Angeles the number increased to 351 from 258, a 36 percent climb … Homicides in Philadelphia are up almost 28 percent, with 170 through May 9, compared with 133 in the same period last year; in Tucson, Ariz., the number jumped to 30 from 17 through May 13, an increase of 76 percent.

By any measure, that’s a huge increase. Yes, we’re still in a relatively low crime environment. But the suddenness of the rise and its scale are striking.

Clearly, now is not the time to reduce policing, and clearly not the time to eliminate policing, which some “progressives” do indeed want. For another thing is certain: reducing policing will just raise the rate of crime, especially violent crime, and will cost more lives. The increase in homicides isn’t explained by a big increase in murders by white police, but, according to stats compiled in recent years, largely by black-on-black crime.  Increasing the murder rate by reducing policing (a “solution” that both Sullivan and I deplore) will simply lead to a disproportionate loss of black lives.

Click on the screenshot to read the article:

Here are the possible reasons for the increase in murders and shootings considered by Sullivan, and why he rejects some.

a.) The pandemic.  Doesn’t seem feasible to Sullivan because lockdowns tend to reduce rather than increase crime, a reduction that in fact was observed in much of the world.

b.) Poverty caused by the pandemic. Again, doesn’t seem feasible because crimes that enrich the perp, like burglary, larceny, and drug offenses, dropped from previous years. So did “food insecurity.”

c.) “The fentanyl crisis”.  Doesn’t seem plausible because opioid peddling isn’t connected with much crime.

d. Defunding the police.  Not likely, for not much defunding has yet taken place.

But what does seem likely to Sullivan is the next hypothesis:

e.) A wariness by police to do “proactive” or heavy law enforcement following the murder of George Floyd and its sequelae, which included increased demonization of police. 

There’s no doubt that there’s a temporal correlation between homicides, shootings and the murder of Floyd, but of course correlation isn’t causation. Here, though, is a plot Sullivan presents of shots fired over time during the Floyd “era” (Minneapolis, of course, is where Floyd was murdered):

The spike in shootings followed Floyd’s death almost immediately, and has risen to double its pre-murder rate since then. Sullivan thinks that, in this case, the correlation does represent causality:

Of course, that is not causation. But it’s one hell of a correlation — and no other event seems relevant. It’s as if the Floyd murder, and the subsequent urban chaos, sent a signal: the cops are on the defensive. Which means murderers can go on the offensive. And once lawlessness establishes itself, it tends to compound. A few gang murders can soon morph into tit-for-tat urban warfare.

Sullivan supports this thesis with other data as well, including the widespread opprobrium directed toward the police, which partly explains, I think, the attrition of police forces in many places. Why be a cop when everybody hates you (“all cops are bastards”) and your job may be insecure?

After this relentless assault, regular police officers noticed. Many quit:

In Chicago, 560 officers retired in 2020 in a police department that had about 13,100 sworn officers as of March, records show. That’s about 15% more cops retiring than during the previous year, when the number of retirements rose by nearly 30%. In New York City, 2,500 cops retired last year, nearly double the number in 2019, according to the New York Police Department, which has about 34,500 uniformed officers. In Minneapolis, about 40 officers retired last year, and another 120 took leaves of absence. That’s nearly 20% of a police department.

But manpower was not the most significant factor. What truly mattered, Cassell argues, is that the police pulled back from the kind of aggressive, pro-active policing that has been shown to be most helpful in reducing fatal civilian shootings — but also most likely to lead to fatal encounters with the police. In Minneapolis, for example, “police stops and officer-initiated calls dropped more than half, use-of-force incidents fell by two-thirds while traffic-related incidents and patrols became far less common.” Residents complained that the cops were slow to come, or were in the neighborhoods with their windows up.

Plainclothes police details have been cut sharply in some places. All this, says Sullivan has taken its toll on the cops, who now “refrain from the kind of pro-active policing that can lead to exactly the kind of incidents that can become viral–aggressive intervention against armed criminals before they kill.

Now Sullivan admits that this is just a guess, but it’s at least supported by independent data, unlike my own earlier hypothesis, which was that the pandemic just made people edgy and desperate, leading to more killings.

Sullivan’s “guess” may well be right, though he hastens to add that he’s not arguing against police reform or shifting some police activities to mental health professionals.

Being a cop is a job I wouldn’t want to have, though I can see its appeal to authoritarian personalities. But it also appeals to those who want to make the community safer, for I do not believe that all cops are evil. I even believe that many cops are on an even keel, not racist, and try to do an honorable job (remember, if nothing else, that many cops are black).  But Sullivan sees a big irony here, for “defunding the police” is an official part of the Black Lives Matter agenda. So Sullivan ends this way:

This is not an argument against police reform or even against shifting some core responsibilities — mental health incidents, for example — to other kinds of professionals. It is an argument that pro-active policing has been more important in restraining crime than many have acknowledged; that removing it, before reforming the entire system, is extremely dangerous; and that elite complacency in the face of lawlessness and destruction in the summer of 2020 helped ignite a cycle of murder that is very hard to unwind. When crimes are committed with impunity, more crimes will be committed. And the victims will not be at Yale.

So this scenario prompts a question of supreme irony: what if the final legacy of Black Lives Matter is that it actually succeeds in its core goal, and that in the future, far fewer African-Americans are shot by the cops. And what if the price of this symbolic victory is, in fact, a huge increase in the numbers of innocent black lives lost to civilian murder? That’s a trade-off worth discussing, before it becomes a new norm that’s very hard to undo.

Reparations for Merrick Garland: he gets to be attorney general

January 6, 2021 • 12:00 pm

Merrick Garland, Obama’s unlucky nominee for the Supreme Court whose seat was pulled away by Mitch “666” McConnell, will now be Biden’s nominee for attorney general.  And now that it looks even more sure that the Democrats will control the Senate, fears about the lacuna he’d leave on the appeals court are waning.

As CNN reports:

While Garland has been a top contender for weeks, concerns about the vacancy his selection would create on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia raised alarm bells among Biden and many advisers who believed Senate Republicans would block any nomination to that seat. But with Democrats poised to control the Senate after two Georgia runoff races, those concerns were allayed. “Judge Garland will be viewed in a whole new light now,” a top Biden ally tells CNN.
I tell you: what with the vaccines and the new Democratic administration, and perhaps a Democratic Senate, 2021 is looking up. It would be lovely if Garland got to lead the prosecution of Donald Trump, but any prosecutions will be on the state rather than the federal level, especially if Trump succeeds in pardoning himself.
Merrick Garland

Feds execute two more prisoners

December 14, 2020 • 9:15 am

As I reported about a month ago, three federal executions were scheduled between then and Christmas, with three more on tap before Inauguration Day on January 20. This is a total of six, and clearly, because of their disproportionate number, Trump is rushing to get these people killed before Biden becomes President. (Presidents have the power to stay executions, and Biden has said he’s opposed to the death penalty.) I don’t expect Trump to exercise any empathy here: he reserves that for his cronies who have been convicted of federal crimes.

If all of these executions take place, as they surely will, this will make a total if 13 state-sponsored killings under Trump’s administration—the most under one President in over a century.  As the Associated Press reports, this is a very rare year in another way: executions by the federal government outnumber those carried out by the states themselves.  It’s usually the other way around, and by a huge margin. Here’s a graph, with the blue bars being federal executions and the orange ones state executions:

Well, this last week two of the three Government Christmas Killings took place. All federal executions are carried out by lethal injection, and all in the same place: the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The first killing took place on Thursday, when Brandon Bernard, 40, was put to death. He was 18 at the time he committed two murders, had spent more than half his life on death row, and pleaded for clemency from Trump because he was a teenager when he did the crime. From the New York Times:.

Among his final words, Mr. Bernard apologized to the family of the couple he had killed and for the pain he caused his own family, according to a report from a journalist in attendance. For his role in their deaths, he said, “I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, looking at the witness room windows. “That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”

Mr. Bernard did not appear outwardly afraid or distressed as he spoke. A minute after the lethal injection began, his eyes slowly closed, and his breaths became increasingly shallow, the report noted.

He was pronounced dead at 9:27 p.m. at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., the Bureau of Prisons said.

The second, on Friday, was of Alfred Bourgeois, 56. The Associated Press reported on his death:

As a lethal injection of pentobarbital began flowing through IVs into both of his arms, Bourgeois tilted his head to look at his spiritual adviser in a corner of the death chamber clutching a Bible. Bourgeois gave him a thumbs-up sign, and his spiritual adviser raised his thumb in reply.

Seconds later, Bourgeois peered up toward the glass dividing him from the media and other witnesses in adjoining rooms, and then grimaced and furrowed his eyebrows. He began to exhale rhythmically, and his stomach started to quiver uncontrollably. After five minutes, the heaving of his stomach stopped and his entire body became still. He did not move for about 20 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

Bourgeois had met with his spiritual adviser earlier Friday as he sought to come to terms with the possibility of dying, one of his lawyers, Shawn Nolan, told The Associated Press hours before the execution. He said Bourgeois had been “praying for redemption.”

Bourgeois took up drawing in prison, including doing renditions of members of his legal team. Nolan said he had a good disciplinary record on death row.

I am not saying that the executed should have been released, though at least for Bernard that might have been a possibility had he reformed, but I do insist that the death penalty is barbaric and unworthy of America. I won’t go into my arguments against it, but will mention one: if convicted people are later exonerated, as 167 death row inmates have been since 1973, there’s no bringing them back when they’re dead. And if they’re not exonerated, well, there’s always life without parole.

All First World countries save Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. have abolished capital punishment (see below). Do we really want to be in the small group of exceptions? What about America requires us to retain the death penalty? Although numbers of countries alone don’t establish the moral rectitude of abolishing executions, they do show a consensus. For those who still want to have state-sponsored killings, I reply as Oliver Cromwell implored the Church of Scotland:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.

h/t: Ken.

Ivy League librarians call for an end to all policing

December 4, 2020 • 1:00 pm

My impression of librarians is that they are sensible and anti-woke, at least in terms of their stand on free speech and free expression. After all, they are the guardians and disseminators of all knowledge, the opponents of censoring books, and I have respected them immensely. They’ve also been a huge help to me in my academic work as well as in writing my popular books.  I guess I thought this admiring view would hold for their other opinions as well. But I was sorely disabused this week when I read two screeds by high-class librarians.

The first one, below, is from a group of 13 “Ivy League+” librarians—including one from the University of Chicago—who have signed a document calling for major changes in universities and libraries. The most important of these is a call for the complete elimination of the police. Not just campus police, but all police.  This document, in fact, doesn’t materially differ from the unhinged manifestos and lists of “demands” regularly issued by students at American colleges. I am disappointed.

The Ivy+ manifesto begins with the requisite invocation of George Floyd as well as the required (but unevidenced) claim that their institutions are not only structurally racist, but complicit in sustaining that racism (emphases in the following are mine):

In early June, in the wake of the murders of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, library organizations and directors issued statements condemning racism and racial violence. A statement from the Association of Research Libraries [JAC: see below] implored that “[i]t is incumbent upon leaders of libraries and archives to examine our institutions’ role in sustaining systems of inequity that have left Black communities and other people of color in the margins of every aspect of our profession.”

. . . We recognize that librarianship, an overwhelmingly white profession, has systematically marginalized BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and librarians with disabilities. The conceptualization of our demands would not be possible without the labor and leadership of these very librarians, theorists, activists, and communities. We also recognize the privilege and power held by Ivy+ and other major research libraries, and thus, it is imperative that we use our privilege to speak out against library practices that cause harm. We build from and stand in solidarity with abolitionist movements happening in all library spaces. We believe in order to fully embody the ethics of librarianship it is necessary to align with the practices and aims of abolition. We hope many more voices will join us in signing onto these demands and in this bold and beautiful work of dreaming, demanding, and being in a better world. Reckoning with our own histories of and complicity in white supremacy and anti-Black racism is in the best interest not only of our institutions and patrons but our profession at large. Libraries are not neutral, nor should they be silent — but we’ve heard, seen, and spoken enough — solidarity is not found in statements, but in actions, and the time to act is now.

Have libraries really been this bigoted and nefarious?

And they’re also said to also sustain the police. The group says that they—the librarians themselves—have internalized their bigotry:

. . . we believe libraries have not gone far enough in this examination by refusing to fully consider our relationships with policing, surveillance, and the prison–industrial complex. These library statements do not explicitly name policing itself as the problem — an expression and exacerbation of racial capitalism and violence — despite it being a very real and dire existential threat to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC), as well as those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Therefore, we find these statements morally and politically insufficient responses. Without naming the specific problem of policing, these statements not only let libraries off the hook for the many ways in which we have internalized the practices of the carceral state in our profession, but also leave the door open for “both sides’’ arguments or appeals to “law and order,” and encourage dangerous and ineffective reforms.

I won’t waste my time attacking this, for, according to Hitchen’s Razor, claims unsustained by evidence don’t need to be refuted by evidence. Perhaps these statements  just constitute the necessary self-flagellation and moral preening needed before they call for the elimination of both campus and regular police . They never, of course, say what will replace the police.

The solution to police violence is not reform but an abolition of policing in all its forms. Therefore, we call on the leadership of our institutions and all of our colleagues to embrace an abolitionist vision of a hopeful, life-affirming future and to immediately begin the work of divesting from police and prisons with the ultimate goal of the complete abolition of law enforcement and surveillance from library spaces, campuses, communities — in short, everywhere.

No more cops! They’re not just talking about campus police, for they want the abolition of law enforcement and surveillance from EVERYWHERE. Who will enforce the law, then? Apparently, nobody.  The attempt of students to disband the campus police at the U of C have already failed, but the librarians’ feeble attempt to adduce “evidence” for the ineffectiveness of campus policing is risible.

Many people will acknowledge the harm done by police and law enforcement but question the safety implications of defunding and divesting from policing on campus. But reporting from police forces shows that law enforcement and surveillance do not keep campuses safe. As Black organizers across the country have been declaring in the streets, “We keep us safe.” Therefore, we demand that library leadership remove any reliance on law enforcement as a means of addressing conflicts that arise in all library spaces by 2022.

I invite you to look at the link they give above. It goes to a Twitter thread from an associate professor at our University’s Harris School of Public Policy, a thread that uses our campus police database to show that black people get stopped disproportionately often by the campus cops, both in person and in traffic, compared to their frequency in the Hyde Park as well as in the University of Chicago student population.

That’s it: those data say nothing about the inability of campus police to keep the campus safe. And the disproportionality doesn’t point to any one cause; there could be more incidents involving black people, it could be genuine bigotry and racism, or it could reflect the fact that we’re surrounded by black communities and the campus police patrol a much larger area of the South Side than just Hyde Park. (Hyde Park extends south for 8 blocks, from 51st street to 59th Street, while the campus cops patrol 27 blocks—from 37th to 64th Street: more than 3 times the area of Hyde Park proper, with almost all of the additional area comprising black residents.)

Is this the best that librarians can do to support their claim? Librarians? They have all the research in the world at their fingertips, and this is what they do?

There are many other demands, of course, including eliminating video surveillance in libraries, divesting from companies that use prison labor, and so on, but I’ll let you read the document itself. (I myself happen to agree that prisons should not be privatized.)

And there’s a similar list of demands representing a much more extensive group of librarians—the Association of Research Libraries:

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries at comprehensive, research institutions in Canada and the United States. ARL member libraries make up a large portion of the academic and research library marketplace, spending more than $1.4 billion every year on information resources and actively engaging in the development of new models of scholarly communications.

You can read their statement below. It’s mercifully shorter than the Ivy+ document, but still makes the unevidenced claim that libraries “sustain systems of inequity”. Some of the “demands” are reasonable, like ensuring that there be an equitable proportion of employees of color, but others, like “highlighting the work of theorists, educators, and other scholars who have been studying about these phenomena for decades,” represent an ideological position that is unseemly for librarians. They want to emphasize Critical Theory. (That alone has taken this group down a notch.)

But that’s just my view. It’s Friday, and I’d rather be walking along Lake Michigan (which I will) than calling out these endlessly circulating manifestos of self-flagellation and insupportable demands. So you can read this one for yourself:

It’s not, of course, that I’m in favor of racism. Rather, I’m against extreme and histrionic statements that included unfounded claims, and against proposals that restrict speech and action but do nothing to help solve the problem of racial inequality in America. And I can tell you one thing: eliminating all police, both campus and public ones, is not going to do what the proponents think it will do.

California passes law to test prospective cops for both explicit and implicit bias: a poorly written article in The Washington Post

October 29, 2020 • 10:45 am

This law sounds good in principle, but seems impossible to use as a way of detecting racism in potential hires. The law and its problems are described in a long and poorly-written article in the Washington Post; I’ll have more to say about the writing later.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Here’s the skinny, and I’ve condensed an article whose published version is at least three times longer than it need be:

An ambitious new law in California taking aim at potential biases of prospective officers has raised questions and concerns among police officers and experts who fear that if implemented inadequately, the law could undermine its own mission to change policing and the culture of law enforcement.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sept. 30, will expand the present screening requirements by mandating all law enforcement agencies conduct mental evaluations of peace officer candidates to identify both implicit and explicit biases against race, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation to exclude unfit recruits.

Experts, police unions and lawmakers agree on the value of identifying whether those who aspire to become officers carry considerable degrees of biases, yet it is the lack of clarity on what tools and measures will be used to look for implicit biases that is raising concerns and prompting questions.

“If police departments start to reject applicants because they have implicit biases there will be no one left to hire,” said Lorie Fridell, professor of criminology at the University of South Florida and founder of the Fair and Impartial Policing program, one of the most popular implicit-bias awareness trainings in the country.

That’s one problem with the implicit bias test: it shows that nearly everyone has implicit bias (the article mentions that 88% of whites and 48% of blacks have an implicit bias for white people (when I took the test, it showed I was “race neutral”: the optimal outcome). Not only that, but the IAT (Implicit Association Test) has been widely criticized on many grounds, not the least that it doesn’t seem to translate into measurable behavior, which is the reason you measure it. You can see The Replicability Index‘s useful summary of all the analyses by clicking on the screenshot below:

From the article’s conclusions:

An unbiased assessment of the evidence shows no compelling evidence that the race IAT is a valid measure of implicit racial bias; and without a valid measure of implicit racial bias it is impossible to make scientific statements about implicit racial bias. I think the general public deserves to know this. Unfortunately, there is no need for scientific evidence that prejudice and discrimination still exists. Ideally, psychologists will spend more effort in developing valid measures of racism that can provide trustworthy information about variation across individuals, geographic regions, groups, and time. Many people believe that psychologists are already doing it, but this review of the literature shows that this is not the case. It is high time to actually do what the general public expects from us.

(See also this article from the British Psychological Society’s “Research Digest.”) Based on the widespread criticism of these tests, it’s simply not valid to claim that everyone has implicit bias.

Now onto the writing quality of the article. It’s long, tedious, and the prose is convoluted and abysmal. There are also some errors. I’ll give a few examples:

The law comes amid a moment of social upheaval where police departments across the country are facing scrutiny. . . .

WRONG. A moment is a period of time, and so it should be “when police departments” rather than “where police departments”. This is a common mistake, but an editor should have caught it.

None of the experts interviewed by The Washington Post claimed to know of law enforcement agencies that screen for unconscious biases — those that people are unwilling or unable to identify — as a hiring standard.

This is awkward. Although the antecedent to “those that people are unwilling or unable to identify” should be “unconscious biases”, it could also be “law enforcement agencies that screen for unconscious biases.” The awkward sentence could easily be fixed to “None of the experts interviewed claimed to know of law enforcement agencies that hire using screenings for unconscious biases—those biases that people are unwilling or unable to identify.”

. . . . he is skeptical of taking implicit bias evaluations like IATs, as benchmarks of deep-seeded beliefs that would lead to discrimination.

IT IS NOT “DEEP-SEEDED” but “DEEP-SEATED”. Everybody should know this, but the mistake is common. But that doesn’t excuse it from appearing in a major newspaper.

These screenings vary agency to agency and often include review of social media postings for sexist or racist comments, interviews with acquaintances, past employers, family members and thorough mental evaluations.

That’s another awkward sentence implying that the review of social media posts includes “thorough mental evaluations”. This could have been solved by putting “thorough mental evaluations” before “review of social media postings.”
A shared concern among scholars is on the use of tools such as implicit association tests (IATs) — sometimes used in bias training — as a hiring tool or screening device due to the unreliability of its findings.
The bit after the second hyphen is confusing and hard to read. It would be easy to fix: “Because implicit association tests (IATs) have been found to be unreliable, scholars are concerned about their use to screen or hire applicants, or in bias training.” Further, the construction “a shared concern . . .on” is awkward and should be “Many scholars are concerned about. . . ” or some other construction.

Yes, these errors may seem minor, but don’t newspapers like the Washington Post employ line editors any more? What’s just as bad, or worse, is the painfully awkward prose, with long sentences, that pervades the entire article. Like this:

Kang said implicit bias tests provide useful, yet inexact information, which he compared to weather forecasts, about a person’s beliefs and stereotypes at a certain moment, but they ought to be used as road maps to help law enforcement agencies develop better methods and procedures, rather than as individual hiring tools.

UG-LEE! But examples are easy to find. One more and I’ll leave you:

Catafi said POST will be working with psychologists and law enforcement experts to incorporate these new required items to the current psychological screening manual, and they have until January 2022 to complete the process.

That one has a bad error as well: it’s incorporate INTO, not “incorporate to”.

But where are the editors? There ought to be editors. Well, maybe next year.

h/t: Luana

Minneapolis fails to defund police

September 27, 2020 • 1:30 pm

When a person or group cries “Defund the police!”, it could mean several things:

1.) Completely eliminate the budget of the police department, and hence the department itself. This is the demand that the University of Chicago’s #CareNotCops group makes for our campus police, saying they want the University Police gone by 2022.  For a case like this, the police department (PD) isn’t supposed to be replaced with another law-enforcement organization.

2.) Reduce the police budget, spending the extra money either on social-service programs or grants given to minority or crime-ridden communities.

3.) Change the method of policing, for example eliminating no-knock warrants or chokeholds.

4.) Supplement police services with social services, like having psychologists or psychiatric social workers respond to calls instead of the cops. That’s not practical, but some places have “ride along” programs where social workers go to relevant calls (domestic violence, child endangerment) with police. Other places have services in which cops refer people to social workers or other helpers after the police visit, and in still in other places police get social-work and psychological training.  Many people who argue for this don’t realize that this is already a practice in some places.

After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, according to the New York Times article below, the Minneapolis city council voted to defund the city police department. I believe the text of the amendment is here, and does call for “the removal of the Police Department as a Charter Department.” The motion was passed by a majority of the Council, with some dissent, but what happened afterwards shows that such votes aren’t necessarily a good idea.

Click on screenshot to read:

First of all, options 1) and 2) above are generally bad moves, especially if you want to completely get rid of the police department, either replacing it with some kind of “community policing” (i.e., mob rule and possees) or getting rid of it entirely with no replacement. Both of these are boneheaded and disasterous moves.

But in Minneapolis the city council doesn’t even have the ability to get rid of the police department, so their resolution was toothless. Also, most of the citizens don’t want the police to be cut. A few quotes from the article:

In interviews this month, about two dozen elected officials, protesters and community leaders described how the City Council members’ pledge to “end policing as we know it” — a mantra to meet the city’s pain — became a case study in how quickly political winds can shift, and what happens when idealistic efforts at structural change meet the legislative process and public opposition.

The pledge is now no closer to becoming policy, with fewer vocal champions than ever. It has been rejected by the city’s mayor, a plurality of residents in recent public opinion polls, and an increasing number of community groups. Taking its place have been the types of incremental reforms that the city’s progressive politicians had denounced.

And of course the “defund the police” mantra plays right into the hands of the Republicans, for if most Americans want anything, it’s to feel that they’re safe, and cutting back on cops is not the way to do that. Perhaps if the “defunders” were more specific in what they wanted, they wouldn’t be energizing the Right so much.

At any rate, all Minneapolis has done so far is to ban chokeholds (a very good move) and “changed reporting measures for the use of force since Mr. Floyd’s killing.”

It’s striking that minorities, whom this issue is supposed to help, often object to “defunding”. (The “charter commission”  described below is a group of citizens, appointed by a judge, to consider the legal and technical ramifications of amendments like the above before they go to voters for approval.):

As the commission weighed its options, evidence mounted that the public wanted police reform, but did not support the actions of councilors or share the aims of influential activists. A poll from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune found that a plurality of residents, including 50 percent of Black people, opposed reducing the size of the police department. Councilors said they repeatedly heard criticism from business owners and residents in more affluent areas of their wards who feared for their safety, as misinformation spread that the end of the police department was imminent.

In the charter commission, however, city councilors and their activist supporters found a common enemy.

“A majority-white, unelected board of people can’t decide that they knew better than the community,” said Miski Noor, the Black Visions organizer.

The charter commission voted down the “defunding” amendment 10-5, so it won’t be on the ballot this November.

The lessons here are threefold:

First, specify exactly what you mean when you say “defund the police”. If you envision a substitute kind of police, you need to specify what form. If you are vague about that, just shut up.

Second, consider the wishes of the community. They may not WANT less policing (if that’s what you intend by “defunding”). Here the “white savior” trope can be very real.

Third, consider the consequences. Reduced policing leads to increased crime, and, as one site reports, it already has in Minneapolis—not because the police were defunded, but probably because of “reduced policing”.

“…Just months after leading an effort that would have defunded the police department, City Council members at Tuesday’s work session pushed chief Medaria Arradondo to tell them how the department is responding to the violence…More people have been killed in the city in the first nine months of 2020 than were slain in all of last year. Property crimes, like burglaries and auto thefts, are also up. Incidents of arson have increased 55 percent over the total at this point in 2019.”

Bear in mind this is coming after just a few months of reduced policing, due in part to extra demands and difficulty and probably in part due to police pulling back either out of fear or reluctance (blue flu) as also happened in Baltimore after the Freddie Gray killing and consequent protests and riots.

Of course the police aren’t perfect, and they (and the law) need some serious reform, including more training in nonviolent intervention, making it illegal to shoot fleeing weaponless suspects, reducing the penalties for victimless crimes like drug use, having more programs that have police learn from social workers and psychologists, and so on. And of course more gun control would be immensely useful in reducing crime, but in America these days that is but a pipe dream.

But defunding as the first option? I don’t think so. We need better policing, not fewer police.

h/t: Enrico