Philandro Castile and the Terror of an Ordinary Day

Philando Castile was shot to death last July on his way home from buying groceries with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter. Last week, the Minnesota police officer who killed him was acquitted by a jury on all counts. I am haunted by how ordinary Mr. Castile’s final moments were. He was just running errands with his family. It’s this denial of the right to simply be — the perpetual state of otherness — that dangerously shadows black people. This is most obvious in our criminal … [Read more...]

In Police Shootings, Blue Is the Color That Matters Most

Monday morning’s news out of Seattle that police officers shot and killed Charleena Lyles, an expectant mother who’d called for help because she suspected a robbery was taking place, is disheartening but not shocking. For many, last week’s acquittal of the police officer who shot Philando Castille, a permit-carrying gun owner riding in the passenger seat of a car with his family, is another example of how police literally get away with murder. Many people have pointed out that both victims were … [Read more...]

After Creating Danger, Can Cops Use Force with Impunity?

Imagine police officers enter your home, without permission and without warning, while you’re sleeping. In a daze, you might think they were criminals breaking in. You might even seek to exercise your Second Amendment right to protect yourself and your family. But if the officers shoot you upon seeing that you’ve raised a weapon in self-defense, have they used excessive force? In other words, are police officers allowed to unreasonably provoke a response that will cause them to open fire? A … [Read more...]

The California Story: Reduced Crime, High Immigration

As California’s population moved from two-thirds white in 1980 to over 60 percent people of color today (Table 1), the state has seen dramatic reductions in crime in each category. Additionally, indicators of social health and safety—such as violence, violent death and school dropouts—have decreased significantly, and California has weathered the national opioid epidemic better than elsewhere in the country. Read the full report here: Refuting Fear As of 2015, the state’s total violent and … [Read more...]

What Do Many Mass Shooters Have in Common? A History of Domestic Violence.

Take violence against women seriously. It's a red flag. At first glance, mass shooters like James T. Hodgkinson, who authorities say opened fire Wednesday morning as Republicans practiced for a Congressional Baseball Game, seem like a diverse group. Hodgkinson, whose attack injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a congressional aide, a lobbyist and two Capitol Police officers, frequently criticized President Trump and other GOP leaders on social media and in letters to his local … [Read more...]

Philando Castile Verdict Painful Result of Laws Rigged to Protect Cops

Just about a year ago, while riding through his hometown outside of Saint Paul, Minnesota, on the 4th of July, Philando Castile was racially profiled by the local police. It happened to him often. Officer Jeronimo Yanez claimed that as Castile drove past him in his car, the structure of Philando's nose reminded him of the nose of a black man he had seen in an armed robbery video. How well does a cop have to remember the nose from a video and how well did he have to see Philando's nose as he … [Read more...]

How a Theory of Crime and Policing Was Born, and Went Terribly Wrong

In 1969, Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist from Stanford University, ran an interesting field study. He abandoned two cars in two very different places: one in a mostly poor, crime-ridden section of New York City, and the other in a fairly affluent neighborhood of Palo Alto, Calif. Both cars were left without license plates and parked with their hoods up. After just 10 minutes, passersby in New York City began vandalizing the car. First they stripped it for parts. Then the random destruction … [Read more...]

Hollywood-Style Heroism Latest Trend in Police Videos

Thomas J. Wydra, the police chief of Hamden, Conn., has seen plenty of disturbing body-camera recordings depicting officers committing misconduct. Last month, he decided to throw a more uplifting video into the mix. It showed one of his officers in a heart-pounding act of rescue. Called to a nursing home because of a troubled resident, the officer chased the man up several flights of stairs and onto a sixth-floor balcony. Just as the man hoisted a leg over the edge, the officer pulled him back … [Read more...]

Don’t Jail Crime Victims for Not Testifying

My friend Deborah Cotton, a courageous activist and journalist in New Orleans, died on Tuesday from wounds that resulted from a shooting at a parade in 2013. After that incident, I had the privilege of working with her at Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, an organization that gives crime victims a voice in public policy. Deb wanted solutions to crime that prioritized safety and economic investment in the community, rather than ineffective “tough on crime” approaches. Like many others in … [Read more...]

Where’s the Justice in Our Criminal Justice System?

I've been listening to a podcast I wish I could have heard while in high school—I probably would have gone to law school earlier than I did. Listed by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 10 podcasts everyone should follow, "Actual Innocence" was started by Brook Gittings, a social worker who—after watching the Netflix series "The Making of a Murderer"—realized how little she knew about our judicial system.  Her desire to learn more led her into the world of wrongful convictions, which has now … [Read more...]