In Criminal Justice, “Simple” Solutions Are Usually Wrong

Sometimes, traditions in journalistic coverage can wrench a public discussion down the wrong path. A recent Washington Post series on the District of Columbia’s criminal justice system targeted flaws in the Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA), detailing horrific acts of violence and frightening statistics neatly juxtaposed with anodyne responses from criminal justice spokespeople. The articles raised serious questions about the operation of the criminal justice system in the District of … [Read more...]

LA Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission Comes Onboard

After scandals, a group of civilians ushers in a new era of oversight for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department Alicia Michel pleaded in front of the audience, asking for an inquiry into a sheriff’s deputy she said was corrupt. The Compton resident said she didn’t feel comfortable lodging a grievance at her local Los Angeles County sheriff’s station, so instead she spoke into a microphone at a public forum Thursday, hoping her complaint would be heard by those all the way at the top of the … [Read more...]

White Silence Equals Violence: Awaiting a Verdict

This morning, here in Minneapolis, six jurors decided beyond a reasonable doubt that I am guilty as charged and my co-defendant, Dan Wilson, was found innocent.  The court case stems from an action protesting the execution of Jamar Clark, age 24, who died in the early morning of November 15, 2015 outside a north Minneapolis apartment complex. Two Minneapolis police officers, Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze, were involved in the shooting. Jamar Clark died after a bullet was fired directly … [Read more...]

Behind the Badge

Police work has always been hard. Today police say it is even harder. In a new Pew Research Center national survey conducted by the National Police Research Platform, majorities of police officers say that recent high-profile fatal encounters between black citizens and police officers have made their jobs riskier, aggravated tensions between police and blacks, and left many officers reluctant to fully carry out some of their duties. The wide-ranging survey, one of the largest ever conducted … [Read more...]

Big Police Diversity Gaps Found for Blacks, Hispanics

In at least 50 cities with more than 100,000 residents, the percentage of black police is less than half of what blacks represent in the population, reports USA Today based on an analysis of Census estimates. Although attention has focused on under-representation of blacks on police forces, large gaps exist for Hispanics in even more cities. Hispanic representation among police is less than half of their share of the population in at least 100 cities. “You’ve got to have a diverse police … [Read more...]

Drug War Slurs Will Never Justify Police Killings

Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Keith Lamont Scott. Terence Crutcher. And now Philando Castile. Recently, Minnesota media reported that charges against the Minnesota police officer who killed Castile could be dropped because attorneys claim Castile was high on marijuana when police stopped him, and didn’t listen to officer instructions. Castile is the latest victim of an oft-used tactic by law enforcement and their defenders – point to drugs to justify the killings of people of color. As the … [Read more...]

LAPD Leads Nation in Fatal Shootings—Again

This is the second straight year that Los Angeles has outpaced all other cities in the country for the number of officer-involved killings. As of Dec. 16 of this year, Los Angeles Police Department officers have killed 19 civilians, according to data compiled by the Guardian. Phoenix is second on the list with 14 civilians killed by police officers so far this year; Chicago and Houston have 11 each and San Antonio has 10. Last year, L.A. topped the list with 19. Its dubious first-place … [Read more...]

Let’s Listen to Cops—If We Want Real Policing Reform

Lately, I’ve been thinking about why only a small fraction of America’s 18,000 police agencies—and particularly their rank-and-file officers—are defiantly hostile to progressive police reform. It’s a critical issue made especially urgent this past year by the stunning, caught-on-camera police killings of unarmed black men and the explosive retaliatory assassinations of random cops. Then November brought us “tough-on-crime” Donald Trump as America’s president-elect. Supported during his … [Read more...]

‘They Can’t Kill Us All’ Tallies the Unarmed Black Men Shot by Police

The reporters who covered the civil-rights struggle in America in the 1950s and ’60s were said to be working the race beat. A new generation of reporters has risen to cover a grim and new-seeming iteration of that beat: police shootings of unarmed black men. In his new book, “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement,” the Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery describes traveling from shooting to shooting during 2014 and 2015. He’d see … [Read more...]

Supervisors Approve Civilian Oversight for LA County Sheriff’s Department

A long-awaited civilian oversight commission to push reforms within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, two years after it was formally proposed. The nine-member panel, which includes one retired officer from the Sheriff’s Department, will operate in an advisory role as it works to hold the largest sheriff’s department in the nation accountable in the jails and within the community. Members include community and faith leaders, a … [Read more...]