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Archive for December 10th, 2015

Creating guardians, calming warriors: A new style of training for police recruits

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An interesting article by Kimberly Kindy (with a video) in the Washington Post:

The police recruits arrived in pairs in the woods outside Seattle. For days, they had been calming their minds through meditation and documenting life’s beauty in daily journals. Mindful and centered, they now faced a test: a mentally ill man covered in feces and mumbling to a rubber chicken.

The feces was actually oatmeal and chocolate pudding, the man was another recruit, and the goal of this mock training exercise was to peacefully bring him into custody. The first recruits approached gingerly, trying to engage the man in conversation. When that failed, they moved in and wrestled him to the ground.

“We needed to find a way to help him. He obviously had a screw loose,” said Aaron Scott, a cadet from Bellevue, Wash. Scott briefly considered using his baton, he said. “But I thought that might be too much.”

For the past three years, every police recruit in the state has undergone this style of training at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, where officials are determined to produce “guardians of democracy” who serve and protect instead of “warriors” who conquer and control.

Gone is the military-boot-camp atmosphere. Gone are the field exercises focused on using fists and weapons to batter suspects into submission. Gone, too, is a classroom poster that once warned recruits that “officers killed in the line of duty use less force than their peers.”

“If your overarching identity is ‘I’m a warrior,’ then you will approach every situation like you must conquer and win,” said Sue Rahr, the commission’s executive director. “You may have a conflict where it is necessary for an officer to puff up and quickly take control. But in most situations, it’s better if officers know how to de-escalate, calm things down, slow down the action.”

Training is at the heart of the national debate over police use of force. So far this year, police have shot and killed more than 900 people, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings — more than twice the number recorded in any previous year by federal officials. Anti-brutality activists and some law enforcement leaders argue that if police were better trained to de-escalate conflict, some of those people might still be alive.

Rahr, the former sheriff of King County, is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on this type of training. In April, the Harvard Kennedy School published a report she co-wrote, “From Warriors to Guardians: Recommitting American Police Culture to Democratic Ideals,” which warns that too many academies are training police officers to go to “war with the people we are sworn to protect and serve.”

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, of which Rahr is a member, has embraced many of these principles. In August, the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank, followed suit.

“The goal of the guardian officer is to avoid causing unnecessary indignity,” said Seth Stoughton, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and a former police officer in Tallahassee. “Officers who treat people humanely, who show them respect, who explain their actions, can improve the perceptions of officers, or their department, even when they are arresting someone.”

Not everyone is on board. Some accuse Rahr of promoting a “hug-a-thug” mentality that risks getting officers killed. About 20 percent of Rahr’s staff quit or was fired in the first year after rebelling against her reforms. Even today, Rahr estimates that two-thirds of the state’s 285 local police chiefs are either skeptical of her training philosophy or “think this is just dangerous.”

Alexis Artwohl, a former police psychologist and consultant to the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association, would not comment on Rahr’s work but is skeptical of some guardian-style training. Artwohl has co-written a book on deadly force whose promotional blurb begins: “In a cop’s world it’s kill or be killed.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 December 2015 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

All 13 of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 147 breaks

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147 is the maximum break, sinking the 7 ball after each red ball. (Just to reprise the rules of snooker:each time you pot a red ball (1 point) you can pot any numbered ball and get that many points. Until all the red balls are sunk, each time you pot a numbered ball, it is replaced on its original position at the opening of the game. Once all the red balls are sunk (and the numbered ball after the final red ball), then you must pot the numbered balls in order, 2 (yellow) through 7 (black).)

Two hours of snooker magic:

Written by Leisureguy

10 December 2015 at 10:27 am

Posted in Games, Video

Some good points on mass shootings, one of which is that they are rare

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From an excellent Radley Balko article:

  • Mass shootings are still extremely rare. That one-mass-shooting-per-day statistic you may have heard is ridiculous. (Note to my fellow journalists: Perhaps anonymous Reddit users aren’t the best source for this sort of data.) It misleadingly lumps gang shootings and drug turf war shootouts with incidents such as San Bernardino and Aurora. Mother Jones, which keeps a more reasonable (but still somewhat objectionable) database, puts the number of mass shootings this year at four, and at 72 since 1982. Yes, these incidents are still tragic and nightmarish when they happen. But to borrow from Hamilton Nolan, you’re probably more likely to die from the stress of worrying about mass shootings than in a mass shooting itself.
  • Mass shootings and murders committed by extremists are even rarer. A much-publicized study earlier this year by the New America Foundation claimed that, since 2001, twice as many people had been killed by right-wing extremists than by jihadis or those who otherwise claimed to be carrying out killings in the name of Islam. As I pointed out at the time, while some quibbled with that figure, the real lede from that study was just how rare extremist attacks are in the United States. New America found just 74 deaths at the hands of extremists since 2001. That’s a little over five per year — in a country of 320 million. It amounts to about .003 percent of homicides in the United States overall. You’re seven times more likely to die from a lightning strike — and 3,7oo times more likely to die from a fall — than to die at the hands of a political or religious extremist.
  • As for Islamic terrorism specifically, a recent study by a University of North Carolina sociologist found that between the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and 2014, there were 50 deaths on U.S. soil that could be attributed to Islamist extremists. That’s a little less than four per year. The figure is so low, in other words, that in a single afternoon, the two San Bernardino attackers killed 3.5 times the average number of Americans killed by Islamist terrorists each year.
  • That number of overall homicides is falling, too. The murder rate in the United States has dropped by more than half since 1991. Yes, murder is up in some cities, and a very few are seeing significant increases. But most cities are seeing increases only over last year, which in many cities saw record low murder rates. In those cities, 2015 will still show a historically low murder rate, it just won’t be as low as the record year of 2014. Overall, there’s just no evidence of an alleged nationwide crime wave. Incidentally, the rate of black-on-black murder, black-on-white murder, and white-on-black murder are also all in decline. So is the number of murders committed with guns, despite an overall increase in gun ownership over the same period.

Written by Leisureguy

10 December 2015 at 10:18 am

Posted in Guns

Homeland Insecurity: Corruption in the Border Patrol

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An interesting report by Melissa del Bosque and Patrick Michels in the Texas Observer:

Special Agent Gus Gonzalez leaned back in the front seat of his truck to get a better angle with his camera. It was December 5, 2011, a chilly day for a stakeout in subtropical South Texas. He’d been waiting for hours in the parking lot of an Academy sporting goods store in Brownsville. A few miles away, across the river in Mexico, a war over drugs and money raged. U.S. residents, paid by the cartels, were supplying most of the guns and ammunition.

Gonzalez and his partner, both agents with a federal law enforcement division called Homeland Security Investigations, had gotten a tip that two men they had been investigating would be buying bulk ammunition that day at the store, so they had staked out the parking lot to take photos and gather evidence. The day dragged on and the suspects still hadn’t shown. But now, Gonzalez couldn’t believe what he was seeing through the viewfinder of his camera. It was Manny Peña, a career U.S. Customs inspector. Back in Gonzalez’s days at U.S. Customs, he had worked side by side with Peña at one of Brownsville’s international bridges. He watched as the stocky 38-year-old with close-cropped hair rolled a shopping cart over to a white Chevy truck, then dropped a new Remington rifle into the bed and walked away. It didn’t look right.

“I think Manny just made a straw purchase,” he radioed to another agent. Suddenly, Peña turned and started walking toward him. Peña’s car, it turned out, was parked just a few spots away. Gonzalez ducked down in his seat. As Peña pulled out of the parking lot, Gonzalez skimmed through his photos, caught the white Chevy’s license plate number and called it in.

Gonzalez’s chance encounter with Peña at the sporting goods store would eventually cost the longtime customs inspector his job. The irony was that Peña had been caught by an agency that wasn’t even investigating him. In the previous two years, at least three other federal law enforcement agencies had opened investigations into Peña, who was an employee of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

CBP’s internal affairs office had built a file on Peña with allegations that included displaying a “lack of candor” — federal law enforcement parlance for not fully disclosing the truth — and for “harbor[ing] a UDA,” an undocumented alien, who happened to be his wife, a Mexican citizen. A CBP disciplinary board had initially recommended firing Peña because of the findings, but his punishment was later reduced to a 14-day work suspension, which he finished three months before he was spotted at Academy.

Another investigation, opened in 2010, involved accusations far more serious. According to records obtained by the Observer, a task force led by the FBI amassed evidence that Peña was “conspiring” with other customs officers to smuggle drugs and people across the border. The FBI task force “conducted several [redacted] operations,” during which Peña was seen meeting with “a known Gulf cartel member,” according to a summary of the investigation. In court, prosecutors laterdescribed “numerous incidents” at the international bridge in which Peña “allow[ed] people to go through without being properly checked.” For such serious charges, Peña might have gone to prison for a long time. But by stumbling into the gun-running sting, he handed prosecutors a more expedient case to take to trial, which they did in July 2012. He never answered for the alleged corruption, only for lying about the gun purchase. Despite Peña’s protests that the rifle was a communal purchase to be shared with his hunting buddies, he was convicted, sentenced to five years’ probation and fired. Peña declined to comment for this story.

It was just dumb luck that after 12 years on the job, Peña was brought down by officers who weren’t even looking for him.

Why was he allowed to work under a cloud of suspicion for so long? The answer lies within the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (OIG), which sounds like one more obscure corner of federal bureaucracy, but is the agency ultimately responsible for investigating corrupt and abusive agents. OIG opened a case on Peña in March 2010. But officials there mishandled the case so spectacularly — first by failing to investigate, then by lying about the work they’d done, and finally by trying to cover up their lies — that they became FBI targets themselves. As unwittingly as he’d stumbled into that stakeout in the parking lot, Peña also became part of a much larger investigation. Though the probe  barely made headlines outside Texas, it would draw congressional scrutiny and expose the deep dysfunction within Homeland Security’s internal affairs apparatus, put high-ranking federal agents in prison, and implicate top Homeland Security leadership in Washington, D.C.

Many of the problems within the Department of Homeland Security and its internal affairs divisions can be traced back to its creation in the wake of 9/11. In 2002, the Bush administration and Congress rolled 22 agencies into one mega-bureaucracy. The U.S. Customs Service, for which Peña worked, was merged with the Border Patrol to become U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In his 2002 speech announcing the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, President George W. Bushpromised that the new agency would “unite essential agencies that must work more closely together. … By ending duplication and overlap, we will spend less on overhead, and more on protecting America.” It didn’t quite work out that way.

The shakeup gave rise to a complex web of internal affairs bodies, with overlapping jurisdictions, conflicting interests and chronic funding shortages. In the shuffle, Customs and Border Protection — now the largest law enforcement agency in the country — was left without its own internal affairs investigators. That task would instead be left to OIG, which had roughly 200 investigators and responsibility for the oversight of more than 220,000 employees. (In comparison, the FBI has 250 internal affairs investigators for its 13,000 agents.)

Instead of streamlining investigations within DHS and rooting out corruption, OIG became known for hoarding cases and then leaving them uninvestigated — a black hole of bureaucracy. To make matters worse, the office often refused offers of help from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that also keep watch over customs officers and Border Patrol agents. In the last two years, new leaders in DHS have pushed OIG to cooperate more with sister agencies, but dysfunction still runs deep. Each agency has its own protocols, case numbers and filing systems, its own sense of institutional pride, and its own acronyms. The FBI, DHS OIG, ICE OPR (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Public Responsibility) and CBP IA all run their own competing investigations  — even though, with the exception of the FBI, they’re all part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the Border Patrol’s ranks keep growing. Congress is intent on “more boots on the ground,” but pays little attention to the men and women tasked with keeping border agents accountable. Accounts of corruption have multiplied: In Arizona, a Border Patrol agent was caught on police video loading a bale of marijuana into his patrol vehicle; another agent in Texas was caught waving loads of drugs through the international port of entry for a cartel; and in California, a Border Patrol agent smuggled immigrants across the border for money. But Homeland Security officials have no way to gauge how extensive the problem is within its ranks. “The true levels of corruption within CBP are not known,” concluded a Homeland Security advisory panel of law enforcement officials in a 2014 report. The corruption investigations conducted by OIG, the panel noted, are often unsatisfactory. “These investigations are nearly all reactive and do not use proactive risk analysis to identify potential corruption. Moreover, they often take far too long.” This means that agents like Manny Peña, suspected of ties to drug cartels, can stay on the job for years, waving people across the border. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

From the article:

dhs-infographic-org-chart

Written by Leisureguy

10 December 2015 at 9:57 am

Otoko Organics, Maggard V3 bar-guard razor, and Institut Karité

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SOTD 10 Dec 2015

A very fine shave indeed. I got the usual somewhat stiffish lather from Otoko Organics, this morning using Italian Barber’s RazoRock synthetic badger brush, a really excellent brush for $17 (though their Plissoft, right now marked down to $10, is equally good).

Otoko Organics promotes excellent glide, and the shave, using the new Maggard Razors Version 3 bar-guard head ($7) on a Maggard solid stainless handle and a new Nacet blade, was a treat: very smooth, very efficient, perfect result. For some reason Maggard refers to the bar-guard as a “closed comb,” to contrast it with a comb guard, but I’m not clear on how one “closes” a comb—apparently you close it by removing all its teeth, to make a bar. My own preference is “bar guard” or “comb guard.”

A dot of Institut Karité 25% Shea Butter Aftershave Balm finished the shave.

I’ve been trying to use the various items I listed in my gift guide.

Written by Leisureguy

10 December 2015 at 9:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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