Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 24th, 2015

How elections affect police shootings

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Radley Balko has an interesting column:

The Albuquerque Journal has posted an interesting analysis of five years of police shootings, between 2010 and 2014. One thing the paper found is that 39 percent of the shootings over the past five years were by officers who were hired between 2007 and 2009, a period “when APD changed its recruiting and hiring practices in an effort to bolster the ranks.”

Those policies were implemented by police chief Ray Schultz, who was hired to take over the city’s police department in 2005. Oddly, Schultz had previously left the department after a major scandal in which thousands of dollars in cash in evidence were reported missing from the APD evidence room. Schultz at the time was deputy police chief and oversaw the evidence room. Until the media got wind of the story, the only officers punished were those who came forward to report the problem. Schultz left Albuquerque for a position in Arizona in 2003 but was then rehired two years later.

As I wrote in a post last April, over the next nine years, Schultz “managed to preside over a dramatic rise in police shootings, preside over a series of sex scandals within the department and win the wrath of the police union.” Mayor Richard Berry appointed a replacement for Schultz last year. But the effects of his tenure still linger.

It’s worth pointing out again here that it didn’t need to happen this way. As I explained in last April, back in the mid-1990s, Albuquerque was again in the news for a series of police shootings. The city brought in criminologist and policing expert Sam Walker to study what was going on. Walker was floored by the department’s toxic culture, training practices and policies that encouraged the escalation of force. The mayor of Albuquerque who oversaw the police department during this time was Martin Chavez. He decided not to run for reelection in 1997, opting instead to run for governor of New Mexico.

In 1999, new mayor Jim Baca brought in a reform-minded chief from Toledo, Ohio, named Jerry Galvin to clean up the department. Galvin raised the standards candidates needed to meet to become a police officer, including a requirement of at least 60 college-level credits. The higher standards resulted in a reduction in the number of police officers, but it’s far from clear that this was a bad thing — the crime rate continued to fall as well. The city also created a civilian review board to rein in police abuses, in addition to a number of other reforms.

But none of these reforms lasted long. After losing his bid for governor, Chavez came back to run for mayor again in 2001. He defeated Baca. Shortly after taking office, Chavez dismissed Galvin and named Gilbert Gallegos police chief. The civilian review board was also already losing its power. The police union was instructing officers not to testify before the board, while simultaneously lobbying to strip the board of its power. (The union head at the time, Paul Pacheco, is now a New Mexico state representative, and vice chair of the state’s House judiciary committee.) The board was basically rendered powerless. Given the police union’s efforts to undermine the citizen review board at the time, it’s notable that Gallegos, the man Chavez nominated to succeed the reformer Galvin, was a former president of the police union.

The old APD culture quickly returned, as officer shootings and allegations of corruption and excessive force began to mount. In 2005, Chavez appointed Schultz to head up APD, despite his prior history at the department. One of Schultz’s major initiatives was . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 9:31 pm

State of US law enforcement: Links

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A few of the links Radley Balko posted in this column:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Canada shows how a government clamps down on scientific information

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Governments often do not like scientists, who in general deal in reality and not in ideology, so governments take steps to stop scientific communication. We’ve seen it in the Soviet Union, in Red China, in Florida (state officials doing planning cannot discuss global warming or climate change), in North Carolina (state laws restrict the amount of increase in sea level that can be used), and now in Canada. Stephen Buranyi writes at Motheboard:

A coalition of journalists and academics is urging Canadians to write letters to government scientists, asking for data on pollution, global warming, and other federal research. They may not get much in response—but that’s precisely the point.

The week-long letter writing campaign, which bega​n on Monday and is called Write2Know, is a protest of the government’s controversial practice of controlling access to both science and scientists—a policy that has never been officially codified, but has been enforced by government agencies fo​r the past half-decade.

Typically, requests sent to federal scientists by members of the public are instead directed to a media relations officer who determines how much access will be allowed. Sometimes interviews will be granted, while in other cases, the officer determines that a number of questions will be approved and passed on to the scientist via email. Scientists may have their responses cut and edited before being released.

The government’s media strategy isn’t clearly defined, and the extent of these muzzling tactics have mainly been pieced together from leaked repor​ts and scores of denied or stalled information requests. But it appears that anyone, inside or outside Canada, attempting to communicate with a Canadian federal scientist for anything other than a scientific project, is subject to this oversight.

“If a journalist or academic writes to a scientist to ask for information they encounter these barriers. We want to walk people through the steps of inquiry to get the same response or non-response we would get,” said Dr. Natasha Myers, director of York University’s Institute for Science and Technology Studies, and one of the primary organizers of the Write2Know c​ampaign.

From March 23-27, those who write letters will get to experience the frustration of dealing with a government intent on keeping its own research and data under wraps—when it isn’t doing everything it can to shut down the production and storage of data by cutting jobs and research fundi​ng, and closing libraries and ar​chives across the country.

Journalists first noticed the walls that had been erected around federal scientists when media officers began limiting access in 2008. A pair of hi​gh pr​ofile incidents a few years later, in which climate change and fisheries data was withheld, sparked widespread outrage, and outraged letters: journalists wrote a​n open letteracademics ​wrote an open letterforeign scientists wro​te an open letter; and yet nothing about the policy has changed.

Writing a letter to the Harper government is like writing a letter to Santa: it’s unlikely it’ll ever get read and you just have to hope you get what you want. They’re also both really into ar​ctic industri​alization.

But the organizers of the Write2Know campaign say that their campaign differs from previous appeals launched by professional bodies in a very important way. “For us it begins with a public,” Dr. Myers said. “The reason we’re doing this as a letter writing campaign is precisely because we want to generate a public that is interested and informed enough to engage with research.” . . .

Continue reading.

Information control of this sort is a hallmark of authoritarian government.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 9:23 pm

A prosecutor seeks redemption for ruining an innocent man’s life

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I don’t have much sympathy for the prosecutor, I have to say. Liliana Segura reports in The Intercept:

By now many have read and been moved by the extraordinary mea culpa published in the Shreveport Times by a man named Marty Stroud III, who more than thirty years ago sent Glenn Ford to die for a crime he did not commit.

“How wrong was I,” wrote Stroud, who as a young prosecutor convicted Ford, a black man, with the help of an all-white jury in Louisiana’s Caddo Parish. Stroud’s murder case against Ford was bankrupt on its face — at trial, a key witness admitted in open court that her testimony had been a lie. Yet Ford didn’t stand a chance. His court-appointed lawyers had never handled a criminal trial, let alone a capital case. He was sentenced to die, though fortunately never executed. After decades spent fighting to prove his innocence, Ford was was finally cleared after the DA’s office revealed it had obtained exonerating evidence. But by the time he was released from prison last year, at 64, Ford was sick with cancer. Doctors say he has just months to live. Ford has spent his last days fighting for financial compensation, which the state has so far denied him. In his anguished letter to the Times, Stroud said that Ford “deserves every penny” for his lost freedom and expressed deep remorse “for all the misery I have caused him and his family.”

Stroud’s apology made headlines across the country. The National Registry of Exonerations called it “uniquely powerful and moving.” In a culture that shields prosecutors from having to answer for even the most outrageous miscarriages of justice, Stroud’s letter is indeed an astonishing read. Though no substitute for accountability – he denies any intentional misconduct — Stroud lays bare the hubris that drives state actors to aggressively pursue even the most questionable convictions. “In 1984, I was 33 years old,” Stroud writes. “I was arrogant, judgmental, narcissistic and very full of myself. I was not as interested in justice as I was in winning.” Stroud recalls going out for drinks to celebrate Ford’s death sentence, which he labels “sick.” Not only because Ford turned out to be innocent. But because today Stroud believes that, as a fallible human being, he never should have had that kind of power to begin with. The death penalty, he writes, “is an abomination that continues to scar the fibers of this society.”

Stroud’s dramatic conversion, his revulsion at the memory of toasting a death sentence, echoes a story told by a different man, former Florida prison warden Ron McAndrew. On the morning after overseeing his first execution in 1996, McAndrew went out to the “traditional breakfast” with the execution team, at a Shoney’s in Starke, FL, just 15 miles from the death chamber. “Everyone in the restaurant knew who we were and what we had just done,” he wrote, “there were even a few ‘high five signs.’” He spotted the defense attorney who had tried to save the life of the man he had just helped execute. “I saw my own sickness on her sad face,” McAndrew wrote. The ritual felt wrong. “It was my first and my last traditional deathbreakfast.” Later, Esquire would publish a profile of the former warden. It was titled “Ron McAndrew Is Done Killing People.”

Others who once operated the machinery of death have reached similar epiphanies. Two years ago the Guardian published a sobering Q&A with Jerry Givens, a retired executioner who killed no fewer than 62 prisoners for the state of Virginia. Givens, a clearly traumatized man, said taking the job was the “biggest mistake I ever made.” Today he serves on the board of Virginians Against the Death Penalty. Former Georgia warden Allen Ault, who presided over five executions and now speaks out against capital punishment, says he has “spent a lifetime regretting every moment and every killing.” Jeanne Woodford, who gave the order for four executions as the warden of San Quentin Prison, later became the executive director of the abolitionist group Death Penalty Focus. In 2013, the New York Times ran an obituary for a warden-turned-academic who oversaw three executions at Mississippi’s Parchman Farm. It included his nagging belief that one of the men may have been innocent. In its headline the Times remembered him as “Donald Cabana, Warden Who Loathed the Death Penalty.”

These are transformative figures. Their accounts, while powerful on their own, are important in the space they create for others to change as well — perhaps even some still working inside the system they have since disavowed. As Americans increasingly question the death penalty amid new exonerations and botched executions, we can probably expect — and should encourage — more of these stories.

Yet as these narratives become more ubiquitous, they also expose a nagging hypocrisy. If we are drawn to such expressions of penitence and moral clarity, if we see them as brave or enlightened or even noble, why don’t we grant people in prison the same potential for change? . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 7:20 pm

New Mexico legislature passes sweeping bill to rein in forfeiture abuses

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At last, some good news about civil asset forfeiture—and the sort of change in laws that every state should do. Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

Yesterday, we were pretty hard on New Mexico here at The Watch. Today, a little due praise is in order. The state Senate has just passed a sweeping bill that would virtually eliminate the practice of civil asset forfeiture and on this issue leave New Mexico as the most Fifth Amendment-friendly state in the country.

The bill would basically require a criminal conviction before police can take property associated with a crime. “Civil” asset forfeiture, by definition, allows law enforcement to seize and keep property without a criminal conviction. It often puts the onus on the property owner to “prove” that he or she obtained the property legitimately, or that it wasn’t used for criminal activity.

The bill was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, the conservative think tank the Rio Grande Foundation, the Drug Policy Alliance and the libertarian law firm the Institute for Justice (IJ). In an e-mail, Peter Simonson of the ACLU-NM writes, “The sponsor was the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the bill had strong bipartisan support throughout the legislative process, passing both chambers unanimously.”

The bill was even praised by New Mexico resident Brad Cates, who headed up the Justice Department’s forfeiture office during the Reagan administration, the era when the more odious practices began.

In 2010, the IJ gave New Mexico a D-plus for its forfeiture laws. From that report:

Even after a reform effort in 2002, New Mexico’s civil forfeiture laws still do not offer adequate protections for property owners. To secure a civil forfeiture, the government must prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that property is related to criminal activity and thus subject to forfeiture. This is a higher standard than most states but still lower than proof beyond a reasonable required to establish criminal guilt. Moreover, in most instances, property owners have the burden of proof for innocent owner claims. And law enforcement may still receive 100 percent of the proceeds from any forfeiture.

Forfeiture is an interesting political issue. It’s a civil liberties matter, but it involves the unjust taking of property. And so while victims of unjust forfeitures are disproportionately poor and disproportionately minority, the practice seems to get the political right way more up in arms than the political left. For example, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 3:40 pm

Actuarial note: How genre affects popular musicians’ life expectancy

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Fascinating little study. Singing the blues is not so bad….

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Health, Music, Science

A great new aftershave! And Shave Heaven’s Vanilla Oak

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SOTD 24 Mar 2015

Man! I do like how the great demand for traditional wetshaving products continues to coax out new products.

First, the lather was magnificent. It’s quite clear that, though tallow can make very good shaving soaps, vegan soaps (like Shave Heaven) can also be top-notch. That Vie-Long brush came off the shelf yesterday when someone on Wicked Edge asked which horsehair brush was my favorite, and I think this one is it. And given that the euro and the dollar are at parity, it’s a great bargain: time to order stuff from Europe.

I put the long-toothed NEW on a UFO handle, and it’s a very nice combination indeed. Like the Parker 24C, the NEW is one of the very comfortable and very efficient razors, here with a Personna Lab Blue blade. Three passes, perfect BBS.

And then a remarkable new aftershave I ordered from Shave Revolution to fill out the order of Shave Heaven soaps: Ginger’s Garden Suede. It looks good, it smells good, and it feels very good. Check out the ingredients:

Aloe Vera Juice, Witch Hazel, FDA approved alcohol, Water, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Essential Oil blend or Fragrance, Benzophenone -2.

I’m not sure about the Benzophenone-2. It’s a sunscreen agent (blocks UVA and UVB), which is good, but there are some concerns. I doubt I’d wash a baby in it, but as a last ingredient in an aftershave (less than the essential oils)? I’m willing to take the chance. Heck, there are even concerns about Propylene Glycol. But I do like the aftershave. (I’m risk tolerant and also past the ages of child-bearing and -rearing.)

Written by LeisureGuy

24 March 2015 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Shaving

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