Later On

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

Archive for June 17th, 2017

Police groups want to bar the public from seeing controversial body-camera footage — and lawmakers are obliging them

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Interesting in the light of the post earlier today about a hopelessly incompetent, corrupt, dishonest sheriff who abuses his power to cover up his department’s incompetence (and, likely, murders), but also has the power to attack good officers.

Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

Here at The Watch, we’ve emphasized over and over that the public benefit to outfitting cops with body cameras will only be as good as the rules governing their use. Unfortunately, many state legislators and policymakers are reacting to the “war on cops” narrative by giving all the control to police agencies. That isn’t a recipe for accountability.

Here’s a good roundup at the Verge:

North Carolina, for example, passed legislation last year excluding body camera video from the public record, so footage is not available through North Carolina’s Public Records Act. That means civilians have no right to view police recordings in the Tar Heel state unless their voice or image was captured in the video.

Louisiana also exempts body camera video from public records laws.

South Carolina will only release body camera footage to criminal defendants and the subjects of recordings.

Kansas classifies body camera video as “criminal investigation documents” available only when investigations are closed . . .

In Pennsylvania, the state Senate recently passed Senate bill 560, which would mirror North Carolina’s opaqueness, and allow police to record inside civilian homes without restriction. It just passed the state House.

In Massachusetts, bill S. 1307 would mandate that body camera video “be kept confidential absent a court order.” It has been referred to the state Senate’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security.

Arkansas legislators made a smart decision by letting HB 1248 — a bill that would have made body camera video a “confidential record” — die in the state house, at least for now. If Arkansas residents — and citizens all over the country — don’t pay attention, it’s likely that bills like this one will reemerge. Then not only will body camera footage strengthen the surveillance state and fuel facial recognition and predictive policing systems, it’ll also be impossible for civilians to view it — which, for civilians, is the primary reason body cameras made sense in the first place.

At the same time, the New York Times recently reported that some police agencies have been preemptively releasing footage that depicts police officers performing brave and heroic deeds. . .

Continue reading.

Using body cameras for PR should be made illegal. Or, better, make all footage, good or bad, available to the public. By cherry-picking deeds of valor (which do happen) and omitting any footage of police brutality, shooting of unarmed civilian, and the like (and those also happen though almost always from non-police cameras), the public gets an unrealistic upbeat view of the status of police activity. I bet that sheriff down in Florida could put together a fine and glowing portrait of himself, provided he gets to pick the footage and do the edits.

That seems to be where we’re headed.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2017 at 3:32 pm

Good Harvy Scarvy discovery for those with small kitchens

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I cooked two extra-thick pork chops last night to have with the potatoes, and so we had some leftover pork, and “leftover pork” spells “harvy scarvy.” (Explanation and recipe at link.)

I just measured amounts by eye, and this time I didn’t want to do all the mincing, because I figured the dish was better the finer the mincing. So I hauled down my Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-Powered Food Chopper and used that. I cut the apples into big chunks, then used the chopper to mince them. About 5 good pulls and the job’s done. Then the same for two stalks celery—big chunks, then chopped—and for half a large onion.

It did an amazingly good job. Of course, a food processor will do the same job, but really, for a little job like this? Clean-up was a snap—rinse out the bottom, rinse off blades, and wipe the lid: Bob’s your uncle.

Anyway, I have a small kitchen and limited storage, so a full-bore food processor is not for me—plus I’ve had one. I like the VeggiChop, and it’s only $20. I have the one at the link.

Once onions, celery, and apples had been minced, I added a good pinch of salt, a few glugs of Enzo Bold EVOO, probably 3-4 tablespoons. Stirred it up, then added 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar, and probably should have done 2 tablespoons.

Still, very tasty, and now that I see how good my Veggichop is for this, I’ll be making it more often.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2017 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Recipes

How can a child die of toothache in the US?

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Mary Otto reports in the Guardian:

On 11 January 2007, about 30 miles from Baltimore, a boy named Deamonte Driver – a normally energetic child – came home from school not feeling well. “He kept complaining of a headache,” his mother, Alyce Driver, said. His grandmother took him to Southern Maryland Hospital Center, not far from semi-rural Brandywine, where his grandparents’ red-and-white trailer home stood in the patchy shade of a grove of trees. He was given medicines for headache, sinusitis and a dental abscess. The following day, a Thursday, Deamonte went back to school.

“That Friday he was worse,” his mother said. “He couldn’t talk.” She took him to Prince George’s County Hospital Center, where Deamonte received a spinal tap and a CT scan. “They said he had meningitis,” said Alyce. The child was rushed to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC, where he underwent emergency brain surgery. “They said the infection was on the left side of his brain. They had to remove a bone.”

On Saturday, Deamonte started having seizures. “The infection came back,” Alyce said. “They had to go back in.”

Deamonte required brain surgery again, and this time the abscessed tooth was removed too. It was a molar on the upper-left side of his mouth: a so-called “six-year molar”, one of the first permanent teeth to erupt when baby teeth are shed, and particularly vulnerable to decay. This tooth was ruined, infected to the core. Bacteria from the abscess had spread to the boy’s brain. Alyce remembered a doctor telling her: “This kid is fighting for his life.” Her world, which was fraught with struggle on the best of days (she had been coping with homelessness since leaving a violent relationship), seemed to fall apart.

The extended family gathered around Deamonte’s bed and appealed to heaven. They called upon Jesus and asked him to save the boy. “He slept for two days straight. I said, is my baby ever going to wake up?”

Finally, Deamonte opened his eyes.

After more than two weeks at Children’s National, he was moved to the nearby Hospital for Sick Children, where he began an additional six weeks of medical treatment. He received physical and occupational therapy, did schoolwork, and enjoyed visits from his mother, his brothers and teachers from his school.

Yet Deamonte’s eyes seemed to be weak, his mother said, and his complexion got darker. On Saturday 24 February, he refused to eat – but still seemed happy. He and his mother played cards and watched a show on television, lying together on his hospital bed. After she left him that evening, he called her and said: “Make sure you pray before you go to sleep.”

Next morning she got another call. Deamonte was unresponsive. Alyce found a ride back to the hospital.

“When I got there,” she said, “my baby was gone.”


In the 21st century, thanks to professional care and advances in antibiotics and water fluoridation, reports of death by dental infection in the US are mercifully rare. But in Baltimore, experts at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry were not so surprised that a child had died, having regularly seen the grave consequences of rampant oral disease. They knew that people with good jobs and dental benefits had access to the American dental care system – but they also knew that people who were poor or working poor or underinsured, or who relied upon Medicaid, or who had no benefits of any kind, were often shut out.

Untreated cavities were common among the half a million poor, Medicaid-reliant children in Maryland, who included Alyce Driver’s boys. According to a study by the University of Maryland dental school, the pain of untreated cavities made 8% of these children cry – but Deamonte Driver did not complain about his teeth, his mother said. Maybe he felt that it was futile to complain. Or maybe he just took the pain for granted. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2017 at 2:05 pm

The rural economy doesn’t seem to be all that bad, overall

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Kevin Drum has a good post with charts. Just one of the charts:

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2017 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

A totally devastating long read: A Mother’s Death, a Botched Inquiry and a Sheriff at War

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How representative of the United States are the events described in detail in Walt Bogdanich’s report in the NY Times? Much too representative, I fear, and we see repeated instances of how police can shoot people with no accountability at all. The report begins:

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Rusty Rodgers did not fit everyone’s image of a law enforcement officer, particularly in deeply conservative northeast Florida. One police chief, well ensconced in the local power structure, expressed irritation over what he called the officer’s “Jimmy Buffett look” — long hair, beard, loafers and no socks.

No one, however, questioned Agent Rodgers’s tenacity as an investigator.

Working for the Jacksonville sheriff, he doggedly pursued a rapist who preyed on poor women and prostitutes. “They deserve justice just as much as someone who lives on the Southside,” he told the local paper, referring to the wealthier part of town. The rapist got 45 years.

Later, Agent Rodgers joined the state’s elite investigative unit, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where he quickly earned agent-of-the-year honors — and a meeting with the governor — for helping dismantle a terrorist financing network that stretched from Florida to the Middle East. For the governor, he made a concession: He cut his hair.

Then, in January 2011, came the call that would upend his life.

Go to St. Augustine, he was told, to reinvestigate the death of 24-year-old Michelle O’Connell, shot while packing to leave her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Jeremy Banks. The fatal bullet came from his service weapon.

Agent Rodgers had been summoned here twice before to answer questions about cases involving the St. Johns County sheriff, David B. Shoar — examining whether his officers had drawn their guns and used pepper spray to break up a peaceful graduation party in an African-American neighborhood (they had), and whether a political supporter of the sheriff had engaged in improper conduct with minors (he hadn’t).

This time, the stakes were higher. There was a dead body — a single mother of a 4-year-old girl — and the sheriff’s office had chosen to investigate its own deputy, poorly as it turned out. Because detectives quickly concluded that Ms. O’Connell had taken her own life, they had done little investigating.

Now, with crucial evidence missing or unexamined, Agent Rodgers had to make sense of the mess. And that meant possibly antagonizing one of Florida’s most powerful sheriffs. A mercurial leader, unctuous one moment, bitingly critical the next, Sheriff Shoar didn’t countenance challenges to his authority. He had resisted the O’Connell family’s demands for an outside review of the case for nearly five months.

When the sheriff finally agreed, his office had one requirement — that Agent Rodgers, and only Agent Rodgers, conduct the investigation, according to Steve Donaway, a former supervisor with the state investigative agency. (The sheriff disputes that.)

It took the agent only two weeks to find evidence that fundamentally changed the complexion of the case. Two neighbors told him that they had heard cries for help on the night of the shooting, prompting the medical examiner to change his ruling from suicide to “shot by another.” As the investigation moved toward homicide, the local state attorney suddenly recused himself, prompting the governor to appoint a special prosecutor.

But the medical examiner changed his mind yet again, and the special prosecutor, citing insufficient evidence, closed the case without bringing charges. And for a year, that’s where the case stood — closed if not forgotten.

Then, in 2013, I flew to St. Augustine and asked the sheriff for files related to the shooting. I came to write about the O’Connell case as part of an examination, in collaboration with the PBS public affairs program “Frontline,” of how the police investigate domestic violence allegations in their ranks.

My record request was routine, but Sheriff Shoar didn’t view it that way. In his world, an out-of-town reporter “poking around” a closed case “kind of stunk,” he said, and he alerted prosecutors so they wouldn’t be caught off guard. But when the sheriff learned that I had already asked Agent Rodgers’s supervisor for an interview, and that he had not been notified, the sheriff erupted, suspecting, incorrectly, that the agency was behind my visit.

“I realized I’m dealing with a whole different set of facts, quite truthfully malice and wickedness,” he told state officials. “I’ve been in this business for 33 years. I know how to deal with bullies.”

His answer was a scathingly personal yearslong attack on Agent Rodgers — a campaign that put the outsize powers of a small-town sheriff on full display and ultimately swept up nearly everyone in its path.

The sheriff commissioned his own investigation of the investigator, accusing him of serious crimes that, he said, had nearly caused an innocent man — his officer — to be charged with murder. He embedded his accusations in the public consciousness through a cascade of press releases, phone calls, letters, interviews and online posts. He sent his findings to state law enforcement officials and the F.B.I. As a result, Agent Rodgers’s own employer and later a special prosecutor began investigating him. He was placed on administrative leave, forced to surrender his badge and gun, barred by his agency from publicly defending himself.

In April, I returned to St. Augustine to report on this second act of a drama that, over seven years now, has sown deep scars in this community by the sea. It has divided the law enforcement establishment, not to mention the family of Michelle O’Connell. It has been reviewed by one state attorney, three special prosecutors and four medical examiners, and is debated still in the local press, on the beaches and in the bars. It has, in short, become the stuff of Florida noir, featured in a documentary on Netflix, in People magazine and on television shows like “Dr. Phil.” “I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Dr. Frederick Hobin, who performed the original autopsy.

On this trip, I approached several of the central players who had declined to be interviewed before. I had new questions, based on my review of thousands of documents not available when I first reported on the case.

Sheriff Shoar had promised to spend the rest of his career holding Agent Rodgers accountable. But what I came to learn was that the sheriff had tried to destroy the investigator with accusations that were often nothing more than innuendo and unverified rumors. Even so, they went virtually unchallenged for years.

In the end, the sheriff did not achieve his goal of seeing Agent Rodgers sent to prison, charged with a crime or even fired from his job. But he did accomplish something else: He diverted attention away from his office’s own botched investigation, the spawning ground for so much of the anger and conflict that followed.

SEAT OF POWER

It is an hour’s drive down Interstate 95 from the Jacksonville airport to St. Augustine, which promotes itself as America’s oldest city, where Ponce de León mythically searched for the Fountain of Youth.

St. Augustine forms the core of a very red county that in 2016 voted overwhelmingly for Donald J. Trump and for Sheriff Shoar, re-electing him to a fourth term with 85 percent of the vote.

The sheriff’s persona plays well on this political stage. Speaking to a Christian prayer group in 2015, he railed against gun control, separation of church and state and especially Washington. America’s problems began, he said, when the government “tried to outlaw our faith.” He blamed the media for “burning down Ferguson” and spreading the “false narrative” that police officers are bad people who must be watched with body cameras. Along the way, he sprinkled in a little Shakespeare on the brevity of life.

Sheriff Shoar, who declined to speak for this article, draws support from an important Florida constituency: law enforcement and the military. He is a former member of the Florida National Guard and a past president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, where he recently welcomed his newly elected brethren with an ethics lecture titled “Keeping the Tarnish Off the Badge.”

The state enforcement agency, known locally as F.D.L.E., “has always bent over backwards for sheriffs,” said Mr. Donaway, who supervised Agent Rodgers and his investigative colleagues in 13 counties. “The sheriffs association is politically very powerful.”

Sheriff Shoar began his rise to power as a patrolman for the St. Augustine police, eventually becoming chief. His personnel file from that era includes extensive praise, but also a hint of problems.

“One area he could improve is to slow down and get all the facts prior to making decisions,” his supervisor wrote in October 1999. In an earlier personnel review, the supervisor had written that “too many projects at once cause a loss of focus.”

The sheriff does not suffer from a lack of self-regard. He once told law enforcement officers that they might want an “8-by-10 photograph” of him after reading his “beautiful” letter to The New York Times — he copied 31 public figures and members of the media — saying the paper’s reporting on the shooting lacked objectivity. The Times was still eight months away from publishing its first article on the case.

His power is nourished by his gift for extemporaneous, often humorous, oratory, not to mention his position as one of the county’s largest employers. He has the means to reward people he favors. One month after his agency’s flawed investigation of the O’Connell shooting, he surprised employees by handing out $1,000 bonuses. He later promoted the officers who investigated Agent Rodgers — “my brightest guys,” he called them.

And he hired as a deputy the 20-year-old son of the special prosecutor who had declined to charge Deputy Banks. The prosecutor, Brad King, listed the sheriff as his first character reference in an unsuccessful attempt last year to join the Florida Supreme Court. (Mr. King said that he did not know the sheriff during the O’Connell case and that his son was highly qualified for the job.) . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, and it is damning.

If law enforcement wants respect, they need to clean up their act by taking action against such overt corruption, misconduct, and abuse of power. But law enforcement seems all too often to work as described in this report: covering up corruption, mosconduct, and abuse of power and—even worse—rewarding it.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2017 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

The Duke and the Summer Storm, near Testina Gentile, Italy

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The question arises, “How many petrichor-fragranced shaving soaps should one have?” The number is clearly greater than zero, but does it go as high 2? Barrister & Mann have come out with their Petrichor, which has a matching aftershave, but I have already Chiseled Face’s Summer Storm:

Moist earth, oak moss, cut grass, pine needles, orange, lemon, ozone, white jasmine, lily of the valley, geranium and musk.

Of course, I’m trying to cut back on soaps. A dilemma.

The lather, using Simpson’s Duke 3 Best shaving brush, was excellent: thick and plentiful. (I wonder whether the Duke (Marion Robert Morrison, better known under his stage name John Wayne) every used the Duke shaving brush.)

The Fatip Testina Gentile did its usual superb job. This is a terrific razor, and I have laid in three for my three young grandsons in Illinois for when they start to shave. Three passes, perfect result, which is plenty good enough for me.

A splash of Chiseled Face’s Summer Storm aftershave—and in this case the little bit of menthol seems appropriate—and I’m ready for the weekend.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2017 at 9:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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