Ohio

Where More Americans Die at the Hands of Police

8/25/14
Image
Security forces face demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, nearly two weeks after unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer has reintroduced police-related killings as a topic of major national debate. Brown is just the latest in a long line of young, unarmed black men killed by law enforcement agents.

It's been widely reported that roughly 400 Americans die at the hands of police per year. And yet, that figure is likely a significant underestimate, as Reuben Fischer-Baum details at FiveThirtyEight.

We ask a slightly different question: Where are Americans more likely to die at the hands of police or while under arrest?

With the help of my colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Nick Lombardo of the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI), we mapped data from two sources: “arrest related deaths” from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and from the FBI’s annual Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) on “felons killed by police.” We also got input from three leading American criminologists: Alfred Blumstein and Daniel Nagin, my former colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, and John Roman of the Urban Institute.

It’s important to reiterate that both data sources suffer from serious deficiencies, not the least of which is under-reporting. Roman worries about "reporting bias," particularly the possibility that "more responsible agencies"—those least likely to use force in the first place—"are more likely to report, and less responsible agencies are less likely to report." But he also adds that what looks like missing data may not be. "It might be that few policing agencies have an officer-involved shooting and the agencies that don't simply don't report any data," he writes in an email. 

But, taken together and in light of their limits, the maps are broadly suggestive of the geography of U.S. police killings as well as the states where arrests are likely to result in more deaths. As Roman puts it: "It is important to shine a light on the subject. Because there is such limited data, our ability to define the scope of the problem greatly limits our ability to form an appropriate response."

The Geography of Arrest-Related Death

Bureau of Justice Statistics

We start with the BJS data on arrest-related deaths. Nearly 5,000 (4,813) arrest-related deaths were reported between 2003 and 2009. These contain everyone who died in the custody of law enforcement officials, including suicides, deaths from intoxication and accidents. Homicides by police accounted for roughly six in ten of all arrest-related deaths between 2003 and 2009, as the chart to the left shows, and ranged from a low of around 55 percent in 2005 to a high of 68 percent in 2009. BJS also cautions “Data are more representative of the nature of arrest-related deaths than the volume at which they occur.”  

The first map charts all arrest-related deaths throughout the country. The BJS data cover 2003 through 2009, from which we calculated the average annual amount for those periods. 

Martin Prosperity Institute

As the map shows, California, Texas and Florida – all big states – had the largest average numbers of arrest-related deaths per year, with 111, 99, and 75 respectively. New York (38), Arizona (34), Pennsylvania (31), and Illinois (30) also had significant numbers of arrest-related deaths. Missouri, where Michael Brown was killed, falls in the second lowest quintile, with an average of 4 arrest-related deaths annually. 

The next map charts average annual arrest-related deaths per million state residents, to control for population size. 

Martin Prosperity Institute

These range from a high of 6.5 deaths per million people to a low of 0.27. Some states, in other words, have nearly twenty times the number of deaths than others. At the top end of the scale is the District of Columbia, which we note as usual is an outlier because it is 100 percent urban, as opposed to states.

Leaving the District aside, Arizona leads with 5.2 deaths per million, followed by New Mexico (4.1 deaths per 1 million), Florida (3.9 deaths) and Texas (3.9 deaths). Note the broad swath of dark red running across the Southwest. The West Coast follows closely behind, with Utah (3.5 deaths), California (2.9 deaths) and Oregon (2.8 deaths).

Northeastern states have relatively low levels of arrest-related deaths. New York has just 1.9 deaths per million residents, and New Jersey is even lower, with 1.3 deaths. Massachusetts is among the states with the lowest arrest-related deaths, at 0.9.

A few Southern states have low rates as well. Arkansas had 0.4 deaths per one million residents; Georgia had 0.27. And Missouri posted one of the lowest arrest-related rates in the nation, at 0.6 per million.

The Geography of Felons Killed by Police

The second set of maps cover felons killed by police. These data are from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2012, the most recent year available. These figures, too, are problematic. The FBI’s data is self-reported and not all police departments participate in the reporting process. The data only capture the deaths of those who were convicted of or were in the process of carrying out a felony. Furthermore, as Fischer-Baum points out, "unjustifiable homicide by police" is not a classification, so deaths like that of Michael Brown might not be counted. Also, a number of states – New York, for instance – have zeroes entered, suggesting there are missing values and serious under-reporting. 

Martin Prosperity Institute

The third map, above, charts the total number of felons killed by police by state in 2012. Again, the Southwest and West Coast have the highest levels of police killings. California tops the list with 114, followed by Texas (54), Pennsylvania (29), Arizona (27) and Georgia (20). Missouri falls into the upper band of states, with 11 police killings of felons, below New Jersey (13) and above Michigan (10). 

The fourth map, below, shows the number of felons killed by police per one million people, again controlling for population. Once again, Southwestern states have the largest concentrations. Arizona leads with 4.2 deaths per million, followed by Maryland (3.3), California (3.0) and Nevada (2.9).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are low concentrations throughout the Upper Great Lakes. The states with the least killings per one million residents were Ohio (0.3), Connecticut (0.3), Mississippi (0.3) and Utah (0.4).  Missouri, with 1.8 felons killed by police per million people, again falls in the middle of the pack.

Martin Prosperity Institute

•       •       •       •       •

There are similarities and differences between the two sets of maps. The Southwest and West Coast have relatively high values according to both measures. Conversely, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Kentucky have relatively low levels of both.

Still, differences persist. The Sunbelt, which fares far worse on arrest-related deaths, does not have nearly the same level of police killings of felons. The Northeast does better on arrest-related deaths than police killings, with Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vermont all scoring higher on the rate of felons killed by police. There is a particularly drastic change that occurs between the two maps in the Deep South and lower Midwest. Missouri, Tennessee, and Georgia have low levels of arrest related deaths per million, but rise to the top on felons killed by police.

•       •       •       •       •

The divergences on these maps highlight the need for better data on people killed by police. Knowing how many Americans are killed by police officers is important far beyond the outcry over the case of Michael Brown. A 2003 American Journal of Public Health study notes that the perception that someone was killed by police officers or by government agents has been the spark for “almost every major civil insurrection that has occurred in the United States in the past century.” Such incidents can and often do precipitate even more injuries and deaths, and cost their communities dearly, both economically and socially. When people no longer trust the police to handle things nonviolently, the study further points out, they are much less likely to cooperate with them or even to report crime at all. "The ability to accurately assess the incidence and characteristics of justifiable homicides committed by police officers is central to the development and evaluation of policies that promote public health and safety," the report concludes.

Meanwhile, some journalists are trying to fill in the gaps in data on their own. At Deadspin, writers are crowdsourcing data collection by asking readers to use Google’s search tools to find and submit shooting deaths via a special public submission form.  

The bottom line: We need complete and transparent data on Americans who die in the custody or at the hands of police. Crime data is notoriously problematic, with under-reporting a common occurrence. But we are talking about people dying while under arrest or at the hands of police – very different from a random, simple, nonviolent crime, like somebody stealing a bicycle. The prospect of the state killing its own people is a very serious one. And the U.S. must mandate reporting of all such incidents, collecting and publishing detailed accounts of how, why and when these killings have occurred.

Only when we have that information can we even begin to pinpoint the problems within our justice system – and to begin the process of fixing them. 








Where More Americans Die at the Hands of Police

8/25/14
Image
Security forces face demonstrators in Ferguson, Missouri, nearly two weeks after unarmed black teen Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. (REUTERS/Adrees Latif)

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer has reintroduced police-related killings as a topic of major national debate. Brown is just the latest in a long line of young, unarmed black men killed by law enforcement agents.

It's been widely reported that roughly 400 Americans die at the hands of police per year. And yet, that figure is likely a significant underestimate, as Reuben Fischer-Baum details at FiveThirtyEight.

We ask a slightly different question: Where are Americans more likely to die at the hands of police or while under arrest?

With the help of my colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Nick Lombardo of the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI), we mapped data from two sources: “arrest related deaths” from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and from the FBI’s annual Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) on “felons killed by police.” We also got input from three leading American criminologists: Alfred Blumstein and Daniel Nagin, my former colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, and John Roman of the Urban Institute.

It’s important to reiterate that both data sources suffer from serious deficiencies, not the least of which is under-reporting. Roman worries about "reporting bias," particularly the possibility that "more responsible agencies"—those least likely to use force in the first place—"are more likely to report, and less responsible agencies are less likely to report." But he also adds that what looks like missing data may not be. "It might be that few policing agencies have an officer-involved shooting and the agencies that don't simply don't report any data," he writes in an email. 

But, taken together and in light of their limits, the maps are broadly suggestive of the geography of U.S. police killings as well as the states where arrests are likely to result in more deaths. As Roman puts it: "It is important to shine a light on the subject. Because there is such limited data, our ability to define the scope of the problem greatly limits our ability to form an appropriate response."

The Geography of Arrest-Related Death

Bureau of Justice Statistics

We start with the BJS data on arrest-related deaths. Nearly 5,000 (4,813) arrest-related deaths were reported between 2003 and 2009. These contain everyone who died in the custody of law enforcement officials, including suicides, deaths from intoxication and accidents. Homicides by police accounted for roughly six in ten of all arrest-related deaths between 2003 and 2009, as the chart to the left shows, and ranged from a low of around 55 percent in 2005 to a high of 68 percent in 2009. BJS also cautions “Data are more representative of the nature of arrest-related deaths than the volume at which they occur.”  

The first map charts all arrest-related deaths throughout the country. The BJS data cover 2003 through 2009, from which we calculated the average annual amount for those periods. 

Martin Prosperity Institute

As the map shows, California, Texas and Florida – all big states – had the largest average numbers of arrest-related deaths per year, with 111, 99, and 75 respectively. New York (38), Arizona (34), Pennsylvania (31), and Illinois (30) also had significant numbers of arrest-related deaths. Missouri, where Michael Brown was killed, falls in the second lowest quintile, with an average of 4 arrest-related deaths annually. 

The next map charts average annual arrest-related deaths per million state residents, to control for population size. 

Martin Prosperity Institute

These range from a high of 6.5 deaths per million people to a low of 0.27. Some states, in other words, have nearly twenty times the number of deaths than others. At the top end of the scale is the District of Columbia, which we note as usual is an outlier because it is 100 percent urban, as opposed to states.

Leaving the District aside, Arizona leads with 5.2 deaths per million, followed by New Mexico (4.1 deaths per 1 million), Florida (3.9 deaths) and Texas (3.9 deaths). Note the broad swath of dark red running across the Southwest. The West Coast follows closely behind, with Utah (3.5 deaths), California (2.9 deaths) and Oregon (2.8 deaths).

Northeastern states have relatively low levels of arrest-related deaths. New York has just 1.9 deaths per million residents, and New Jersey is even lower, with 1.3 deaths. Massachusetts is among the states with the lowest arrest-related deaths, at 0.9.

A few Southern states have low rates as well. Arkansas had 0.4 deaths per one million residents; Georgia had 0.27. And Missouri posted one of the lowest arrest-related rates in the nation, at 0.6 per million.

The Geography of Felons Killed by Police

The second set of maps cover felons killed by police. These data are from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2012, the most recent year available. These figures, too, are problematic. The FBI’s data is self-reported and not all police departments participate in the reporting process. The data only capture the deaths of those who were convicted of or were in the process of carrying out a felony. Furthermore, as Fischer-Baum points out, "unjustifiable homicide by police" is not a classification, so deaths like that of Michael Brown might not be counted. Also, a number of states – New York, for instance – have zeroes entered, suggesting there are missing values and serious under-reporting. 

Martin Prosperity Institute

The third map, above, charts the total number of felons killed by police by state in 2012. Again, the Southwest and West Coast have the highest levels of police killings. California tops the list with 114, followed by Texas (54), Pennsylvania (29), Arizona (27) and Georgia (20). Missouri falls into the upper band of states, with 11 police killings of felons, below New Jersey (13) and above Michigan (10). 

The fourth map, below, shows the number of felons killed by police per one million people, again controlling for population. Once again, Southwestern states have the largest concentrations. Arizona leads with 4.2 deaths per million, followed by Maryland (3.3), California (3.0) and Nevada (2.9).

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are low concentrations throughout the Upper Great Lakes. The states with the least killings per one million residents were Ohio (0.3), Connecticut (0.3), Mississippi (0.3) and Utah (0.4).  Missouri, with 1.8 felons killed by police per million people, again falls in the middle of the pack.

Martin Prosperity Institute

•       •       •       •       •

There are similarities and differences between the two sets of maps. The Southwest and West Coast have relatively high values according to both measures. Conversely, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Kentucky have relatively low levels of both.

Still, differences persist. The Sunbelt, which fares far worse on arrest-related deaths, does not have nearly the same level of police killings of felons. The Northeast does better on arrest-related deaths than police killings, with Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vermont all scoring higher on the rate of felons killed by police. There is a particularly drastic change that occurs between the two maps in the Deep South and lower Midwest. Missouri, Tennessee, and Georgia have low levels of arrest related deaths per million, but rise to the top on felons killed by police.

•       •       •       •       •

The divergences on these maps highlight the need for better data on people killed by police. Knowing how many Americans are killed by police officers is important far beyond the outcry over the case of Michael Brown. A 2003 American Journal of Public Health study notes that the perception that someone was killed by police officers or by government agents has been the spark for “almost every major civil insurrection that has occurred in the United States in the past century.” Such incidents can and often do precipitate even more injuries and deaths, and cost their communities dearly, both economically and socially. When people no longer trust the police to handle things nonviolently, the study further points out, they are much less likely to cooperate with them or even to report crime at all. "The ability to accurately assess the incidence and characteristics of justifiable homicides committed by police officers is central to the development and evaluation of policies that promote public health and safety," the report concludes.

Meanwhile, some journalists are trying to fill in the gaps in data on their own. At Deadspin, writers are crowdsourcing data collection by asking readers to use Google’s search tools to find and submit shooting deaths via a special public submission form.  

The bottom line: We need complete and transparent data on Americans who die in the custody or at the hands of police. Crime data is notoriously problematic, with under-reporting a common occurrence. But we are talking about people dying while under arrest or at the hands of police – very different from a random, simple, nonviolent crime, like somebody stealing a bicycle. The prospect of the state killing its own people is a very serious one. And the U.S. must mandate reporting of all such incidents, collecting and publishing detailed accounts of how, why and when these killings have occurred.

Only when we have that information can we even begin to pinpoint the problems within our justice system – and to begin the process of fixing them. 








Palestinian-American teen denied access to Israel’s airport

8/25/14

Photo of Dina Shehadeh at her family home in al-Bireh near Ramallah by Allison Deger

Dina Shehadeh, 17, was about to begin her senior year of high school in Ohio where she was born and raised. But two weeks ago, after spending the summer with her extended family in the West Bank, she was separated from her mother and detained inside of Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. Israeli security then told Dina that she was not allowed to leave the country—at least not through the airport.

While detained on the night of August 13, 2014 when she was scheduled to fly on El Al flight 1,  Dina learned to her surprise that Israeli security no longer considered her an American citizen with American travel privileges. The Palestinian identification card her family filed for her the year before, a registry requirement for children of West Bank Palestinian ID holders, erases her rights as a U.S. citizen.

“We put aside the American passport for this matter and they are only Palestinian,” said the Israeli Ministry of Interior office at Ben Gurion Airport to Mondoweiss. As of her 16th birthday, Dina now needs a special permit from the army to enter the airport. “Otherwise he can leave through Gaza for Egypt, and Jordan from Allenby [a West Bank land crossing].”

Israel’s policy of limiting travel through Ben-Gurion for Palestinian-Americans has recently come under fire when last April Israel made a bid for a U.S. visa waiver program. To be eligible, the U.S. State Department said Israel needed to reduce the number of deportations and travel bans imposed on Palestinian-Americans. In April spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Israel needed to ease up, “The Department of Homeland Security and State remain concerned with the unequal treatment that Palestinian-Americans and other Americans of Middle Eastern origin experience at Israel’s border and checkpoints, and reciprocity is the most basic condition.” However, no changes have been announced.

“When I was first detained they told me to sit on some chairs outside and all I heard them ask my mom was who is her dad, what is his name?” said Dina recounting how she was held in an airport employee office for five hours without her passport. Then Dina said the Israeli authorities yelled at her mother, Nedha Shehadeh and so she walked away to avoid the confrontation. “When my mom said this is the last time we’ll come back if this is how we are treated the lady told her I don’t care.” Airport security then said to Nedha she should board the flight to JFK in New York that the pair had booked, indicating that Dina would to join her on the plane before take off.

However Dina was not allowed to board and instead was kept in an employee room inside of Ben Gurion airport until the next day. Her mother was on the plane and flew to New York, unable to de-board by the time she realized that something had happened to her daughter.

Security officials asked Dina a few questions about her family tree, her father’s name, his father’s name, etc., and then she was left alone for hours. “It was an office where all of the people work there clock in and out,” she said. When her passport was finally returned to her, Dina was told she was allowed to leave the airport to return to the West Bank.

But Dina didn’t know how to get to the West Bank from Tel Aviv and found herself in the precarious position of being without a phone, in foreign country, in an airport that she’s legally not allowed to be in. And so she cried.

“I was just sitting there the whole time for like two hours by myself,” said Dina, explaining her father had planned to travel back to the U.S. via Jordan a few days later, but she didn’t know how to reach him. Also, airport security had taken all of her mothers checked luggage off of the plane and dropped them off with her, too big and too heavy to carry. She sat on the hallway floor outside of the room where she had been detained, “until this man that works there took me to a office and I used his phone to call my father,” she said.

In 2008 after spending two decades abroad Dina’s father had a comparable situation while flying into Ben Gurion airport in order to travel on to the West Bank. He too was detained. Airport authorities then put him on a flight to Jordan and told him he needed to renew his Palestinian ID and could no longer use the Israeli airport. But before 2000, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza had a legal right to access the Tel Aviv airport and technically they still do today. However during the second Intifada the army instituted a temporary security provision requiring Palestinians to obtain an “airport permit,” which Dina and her family were not aware of. And even though the Intifada has long since ended, the security requirements for Palestinians using Ben Gurion have only increased.

Still when Dina flew into Ben Gurion at the beginning of the summer, she breezed through passport control without hassle.

“They have two different kinds of U.S. citizens.” Said Abdulsalam Shehadeh, Dina’s father pointing to his daughter’s green Palestinian ID card, continuing, “even though we didn’t want these, but they gave them to us.”

There is no process in place for Dina to renounce or rid herself of her Palestinian ID card and become American in the eyes of Israel again. Her ID card is more of a hindrance than a benefit. It does not grant her additional rights. It does not make her a citizen, as Palestine is not an independent country. Rather by having the Palestinian ID, Dina is troubled by no longer being allowed to visit Jerusalem or the beaches of Tel Aviv—like other Americans. At a checkpoint, Dina has to stand in the line for Palestinians not foreigners, which is often longer, and she can only drive a car with Green license plates, a special marker for West Bank Palestinians.

Being viewed by Israel as a Palestinian also means Dina is subject to harsh military codes. If she were to get a minor traffic violation such as speeding, she would be prosecuted under military law and could face three-months in jail. By contrast any other American citizen would be issued a ticket and a nominal fine.

Within two days of Dina’s detention at Ben Gurion airport Abdulsalam had already contacted his congressional representative, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank. The latter issued Dina a special “airport permit” that puts in writing that she is not a security threat, and allowed her to board a flight from Ben Gurion.

“They should have told her when she was coming to their country ‘hey we don’t want you go back’ they do that to a lot of people,” he said, continuing, “Why would you let her in, when she’s leaving with her mother, a minor underage, and separate her from her mother. This is the whole issue.”

Should Cops Have to Live Where They Work?

8/20/14
Image
Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

“This is my neighborhood,” said Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol last Sunday. “You are my family, you are my friends, and I am you.”

Johnson was speaking at Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, Missouri, where he had been brought in by the governor last week to lead law enforcement efforts in the wake of the killing of teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

Johnson’s simple willingness to walk among the protesters and talk to them one-on-one were enough to make headlines when contrasted with the militarized stance that had characterized police action in Ferguson to that point. Though protests, rioting, and looting have continued in the days since, his arrival on the scene sparked a dramatic shift in the mood in Ferguson.

That change might have been rooted in some fundamental facts about who Johnson is and where he comes from. As he said in his Sunday talk, he knows Ferguson from the inside out. He grew up there, and now lives just across the city line in Florissant.

Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown under contested circumstances on August 9th, reportedly lives in Crestwood, more than half an hour’s drive away, in a community that looks very different. In the 2010 census, Crestwood was more than 96 percent white, and Ferguson more than 67 percent black. (Florissant, incidentally, is 69 percent white.)

Now, some type of incentive to encourage local residency for Ferguson police is one of the possible reforms on the table as the city goes into its twelfth day of civil unrest.

The question of whether police officers should live in or near the communities they patrol has a long and contentious history. Residency requirements for police and other municipal employees were once much more common in American cities, but they are becoming increasingly rare in the wake of policy changes and court challenges. One example is Ohio, where in 2009, in a move perceived as a tough blow to cities such as Cleveland, the state Supreme Court upheld a law striking down residency requirements. The city of St. Louis relaxed its residency requirements for cops back in 2005.

For many who oppose such requirements, it’s a simple issue of a person’s right to live wherever he or she chooses, without government interference. “Nobody should be forced to give up their constitutional rights to live where they want to live just because they work in the city," Republican state Sen. Timothy Grendell of Chesterland, Ohio, told USA Today in 2006. There’s also an economic argument: In cities that are flourishing economically, it can be hard to live on a civil servant’s salary.

Residency policies, according to some critics, are mostly about increasing a city’s tax base rather than contributing any real benefit to the quality of policing. But it’s also true that increasing challenges to residency requirements for police have been linked to the destabilization of communities that once were anchored by public servants earning steady salaries.

Detroit is one example of what can happen when cops are freed from these requirements. After the state of Michigan eliminated the city’s residency restrictions in 1999, many officers started moving out. By 2011, incoming mayor David Bing noted, more than half of the city’s police lived outside of Detroit. He even instituted policies offering financial incentives to make coming back more enticing.

Milwaukee’s mayor Tom Barrett cited Detroit as a cautionary tale when he defended his city’s residency requirements—in place for more than 70 years—against a challenge from Republican governor Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers in 2011. “Eleven years ago, the city of Detroit lifted the residency requirement for police officers and today, 53 percent of officers live outside of the city,” Barrett was quoted as saying by the Milwaukee Business Journal. “If we want the tax base of Milwaukee to resemble the tax base of Detroit, this is the way to go.”

A law ending the Wisconsin requirements was subsequently passed and signed into law by Walker, and immediately challenged in court by Milwaukee. In January 2014, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge ruled against the city. Milwaukee is not enforcing the requirement as the case wends its way through the courts.

In the meantime, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, city records show that 246 Milwaukee employees had moved out of town by July of this year. The moves may have reflected a distance that was already there. Before the residency requirements were eliminated, the Journal Sentinel paraphrased the head of the Milwaukee police union as saying “some officers are also concerned about living in the same community as people they have arrested.”

In Ferguson, the already complicated question of residency is further muddied by the fragmentation of municipalities in suburban St. Louis, as well as the pervasive racial segregation in the region—some of the most extreme in the nation.

More than 14 years ago, Governing magazine senior editor Alan Ehrenhalt wrote about the demise of Detroit’s residency requirement and the increasing disconnect between police officers and the communities they serve. “One has to wonder whether the anti-residency movement isn't part of something larger: a subtle reaction against the idea of old-fashioned geographical community,” he wrote.  “We keep hearing … communities will be virtual—America will really just be one big chat room. In that case, what's the difference whether the cop on your neighborhood beat lives in your city, or in a suburb 20 miles away where his family can have a bigger yard?”

The recent events in Ferguson demonstrate that the difference may be very real. For those trying to bridge the distance between police officers and the people they are sworn to serve and protect, simple geography might not be a bad place to start.








Should Cops Have to Live Where They Work?

8/20/14
Image
Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri Highway Patrol. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

“This is my neighborhood,” said Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol last Sunday. “You are my family, you are my friends, and I am you.”

Johnson was speaking at Greater Grace Church in Ferguson, Missouri, where he had been brought in by the governor last week to lead law enforcement efforts in the wake of the killing of teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

Johnson’s simple willingness to walk among the protesters and talk to them one-on-one were enough to make headlines when contrasted with the militarized stance that had characterized police action in Ferguson to that point. Though protests, rioting, and looting have continued in the days since, his arrival on the scene sparked a dramatic shift in the mood in Ferguson.

That change might have been rooted in some fundamental facts about who Johnson is and where he comes from. As he said in his Sunday talk, he knows Ferguson from the inside out. He grew up there, and now lives just across the city line in Florissant.

Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown under contested circumstances on August 9th, reportedly lives in Crestwood, more than half an hour’s drive away, in a community that looks very different. In the 2010 census, Crestwood was more than 96 percent white, and Ferguson more than 67 percent black. (Florissant, incidentally, is 69 percent white.)

Now, some type of incentive to encourage local residency for Ferguson police is one of the possible reforms on the table as the city goes into its twelfth day of civil unrest.

The question of whether police officers should live in or near the communities they patrol has a long and contentious history. Residency requirements for police and other municipal employees were once much more common in American cities, but they are becoming increasingly rare in the wake of policy changes and court challenges. One example is Ohio, where in 2009, in a move perceived as a tough blow to cities such as Cleveland, the state Supreme Court upheld a law striking down residency requirements. The city of St. Louis relaxed its residency requirements for cops back in 2005.

For many who oppose such requirements, it’s a simple issue of a person’s right to live wherever he or she chooses, without government interference. “Nobody should be forced to give up their constitutional rights to live where they want to live just because they work in the city," Republican state Sen. Timothy Grendell of Chesterland, Ohio, told USA Today in 2006. There’s also an economic argument: In cities that are flourishing economically, it can be hard to live on a civil servant’s salary.

Residency policies, according to some critics, are mostly about increasing a city’s tax base rather than contributing any real benefit to the quality of policing. But it’s also true that increasing challenges to residency requirements for police have been linked to the destabilization of communities that once were anchored by public servants earning steady salaries.

Detroit is one example of what can happen when cops are freed from these requirements. After the state of Michigan eliminated the city’s residency restrictions in 1999, many officers started moving out. By 2011, incoming mayor David Bing noted, more than half of the city’s police lived outside of Detroit. He even instituted policies offering financial incentives to make coming back more enticing.

Milwaukee’s mayor Tom Barrett cited Detroit as a cautionary tale when he defended his city’s residency requirements—in place for more than 70 years—against a challenge from Republican governor Scott Walker and GOP lawmakers in 2011. “Eleven years ago, the city of Detroit lifted the residency requirement for police officers and today, 53 percent of officers live outside of the city,” Barrett was quoted as saying by the Milwaukee Business Journal. “If we want the tax base of Milwaukee to resemble the tax base of Detroit, this is the way to go.”

A law ending the Wisconsin requirements was subsequently passed and signed into law by Walker, and immediately challenged in court by Milwaukee. In January 2014, a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge ruled against the city. Milwaukee is not enforcing the requirement as the case wends its way through the courts.

In the meantime, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, city records show that 246 Milwaukee employees had moved out of town by July of this year. The moves may have reflected a distance that was already there. Before the residency requirements were eliminated, the Journal Sentinel paraphrased the head of the Milwaukee police union as saying “some officers are also concerned about living in the same community as people they have arrested.”

In Ferguson, the already complicated question of residency is further muddied by the fragmentation of municipalities in suburban St. Louis, as well as the pervasive racial segregation in the region—some of the most extreme in the nation.

More than 14 years ago, Governing magazine senior editor Alan Ehrenhalt wrote about the demise of Detroit’s residency requirement and the increasing disconnect between police officers and the communities they serve. “One has to wonder whether the anti-residency movement isn't part of something larger: a subtle reaction against the idea of old-fashioned geographical community,” he wrote.  “We keep hearing … communities will be virtual—America will really just be one big chat room. In that case, what's the difference whether the cop on your neighborhood beat lives in your city, or in a suburb 20 miles away where his family can have a bigger yard?”

The recent events in Ferguson demonstrate that the difference may be very real. For those trying to bridge the distance between police officers and the people they are sworn to serve and protect, simple geography might not be a bad place to start.








Dead American soldier in IDF signed up to fight global jihadists plotting ‘Holocaust 2.0′

8/20/14
David Gordon, from Crown Heights Info

David Gordon, from Crown Heights Info

We hear a lot about Americans going off to fight as jihadists. What about those who want to serve in the other side of that end-times religious battle, as warriors for the Jewish state?

An Israeli soldier from Ohio who went missing for two days was found yesterday: David Gordon was found in central Israel, dead of gunshot wounds, rifle at his side. The Forward memorializes him as a brilliant budding journalist.

According to his own blog, Gordon had considered joining the US Navy but decided that he was more needed in Israel. His “Reflections of a Warrior in the Israel Defense Forces,” written last year, relates that Gordon was 18 and studying in Jerusalem in 2011 when friends were injured in a bus bombing. Soon after that, Gordon went to Poland to visit Holocaust sites on a trip heavily subsidized by my gap-year program.” Emphasis mine.

Gordon seems to have had an epiphany about the Jewish condition on that trip, which was

the most emotionally draining tour of my brief history. Mass graves, remnants of Jewish towns and cemeteries, horrific museums and a half a dozen extermination camps are all we saw that week. Aside from my family’s Polish roots and their unwarranted demise at the hands of Jewish hatred, I felt an unyielding magnetism towards Poland. One incident in particular resonated with me and subsequently watered the seeds of my already growing bond with the State of Israel and ultimately led to my future service in the Israel Defense Forces.
On day three of the dreaded trek, we drove to Krakow home to the Old Jewish Cemetery, ancient synagogues and the factory-turned-museum of Oskar Schindler, the unconventional humanitarian and subsequent inspiration for Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film. It was high noon on a clear day when our bus stopped at a red light only to be greeted by a storm.
Presumably because of the eager looks on our bus’s Orthodox-looking passengers, a group of around 10 natives standing on the sidewalk faced us and simultaneously and ceremoniously saluted their arms in a hail to Hitler. I was stunned for only a few moments before a current of fury surged through my veins. Some passengers reciprocated with their own middle-fingered salute while others banged barbarously on the bus’s window. Unable to properly express my own buildup of emotion, I slouched low in my seat and began to cry. Perhaps it was due to the overload of images from our walks through numerous Nazi death camps, gas chambers and human furnaces of a dark history or the harsh reality that I was powerless in the face of present day anti-Semitism. Here I was, a mere bus ride away from the the exact spot where the SS butchered and burned an upwards of 80 members of my extended family in the central city of Kalisz over 70 years ago and watching as modern day Poles all but urinated on their graves….

Gordon’s motivation to serve Israel recalls the indoctrination trips to Poland for Israeli youth documented in the movie Defamation, by Yoav Shamir. And it recalls Jeffrey Goldberg’s youthful determination to do the same in the 1980s. “The fear of anti-Semitism is the forge on which” he built his identity as a young Jew, Goldberg wrote in his memoir, Prisoners. “I believed a red river of anti-Semitism ran under the surface of America.” Jews led “the dog’s life of the Diaspora. We were a whipped and boneless people.” So Goldberg moved to Israel (till he found Israel too tough, and came back here to pursue his career).

David Gordon’s 2013 post is feverish about the global threat of anti-Semitism. It is a pastiche of neoconservative and Zionist claims about Islam.

I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States.
When Operation Pillar of Defense was launched in November 2012, I was in New York doing research for a feature article on security in Israel and the region as a journalist for The Suit Magazine. My thoughts were with the Israeli people and the IDF and like many others I was infuriated by the ongoing circumstances in Israel. Coupled with my newfound understanding of the vast reach of Israel’s enemies, the war opened my eyes. There is no isolated incident of terror in Jewish history. The Pogroms, the Holocaust, the Jerusalem Bus Stop Bombing, the onslaught of rocket fire leading up to Operation Pillar of Defense and countless other incidence are part of a larger enigmatic epidemic of anti-Semitism that is far outdated yet nonetheless alive and active. To claim that Israel’s enemies make a distinction between Israel the Nation and Israel the People or that they are solely resisting oppressive Zionism is misguided as is apparent in Hamas’s Charter….The threat of modern day supreme spiritual leaders and quasi-dictators implementing their radical ideologies and racial opposition is very much real and the IDF is present in Israel to thwart the very plausible “Holocaust 2.0″ against the Jews. Thousands if not millions of of Islamic fascists want to pounce on the Jew much like the conspirators of the Final Solution did during the second World War at a much larger volume of hatred, propaganda and indoctrination than I can fathom. Their rally-calls for global dominance through Jihad and relentless pursuit of scapegoatism to pacify the troubles of their flocks echoes those of their 20th century counterparts. But Israel won’t let their ominous threats become true. I won’t let them become true.

Hundreds of Ohioans say our gov’t is on the ‘wrong side of history and humanity’

8/19/14

Press Release: Hundreds from Across Ohio March in Protest of the Massacre on Gaza:

COLUMBUS, OH – Hundreds of community members, students, activists, academics, and faith leaders from cities across Ohio gathered on Sunday, August 17, in front of the statehouse to protest the recent violence in Gaza and the ongoing occupation, and to demand an end to US aid to Israel.

Co-sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Group of Columbus and Al-Awda Cleveland and endorsed by a broad coalition of human rights, immigrant rights, religious, and interfaith groups, the Ohio rally was one of many taking place across the US and world.

Organizers and participants highlighted Israel’s continued violation of Palestinian rights under international law, and a need for an end to the seven-year blockade of Gaza, which has transformed the territory into what UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator – John Holmes, UK Prime Minister – David Cameron, and one of the world’s top public intellectuals – Noam Chomsky, have called “an open-air prison.”

“The current war on Gaza is completely unjustified, disproportionate and a violation of international law,” said Connie Hammond, a board member of the Peace Progressive Coalition in Columbus. “We are outraged at the blatant violation of human rights that are perpetrated by Israel on a regular basis, including the confiscation of land in the occupied territories, house demolitions, and detention and abuse of Palestinian children.  We ask that the international community demand that Israel complies with all international laws and come into compliance with international humanitarian standards.”

“The US government sends $3.1 billion annually to the Israeli government”, said Sami Idries, President of the Committee for Justice in Palestine at OSU. “This is a significant amount of our tax money that is being used to fund heinous crimes committed by the Israeli military. As American citizens, we are obligated to condemn these horrifying acts and demand that our government as well as that of Israel’s are held accountable.”

Many participants spoke of the need to tell the other side of the story, one that is rarely given any airtime in the US, and to give voice to the 1.8 million Gazans whose voices are left out of US discourse on the issue.

“The Israeli assault on Gaza is a reminder of the everyday terror that Palestinians live under,” said Ben Stockwell of the Cincinnati International Socialist Organization.  “When they aren’t fleeing from bombs, they are living without adequate water, food, shelter, medical care and basic human rights. To be silent in the face of such atrocities is to be on the wrong side of history and humanity.”

Israel’s month long offensive in Gaza has claimed nearly 2,000 Palestinian lives of which 75% were civilians, and injured over 9,000 people. Among the killed are at least 449 children, 243 women and 87 elderly.

The deadly assault has displaced over half a million Palestinians, most of which have taken shelter in UN schools.  With a shortage of fuel, food, electricity, water, medicine, and blood, children and families in Gaza continue to suffer in the midst of one of the worst humanitarian crises the world has seen in recent years.

See: Gaza conflict: The hundreds who lost their lives

“We will continue having rallies until our brothers and sisters in Palestine stop dying and my husband who lives in Palestine can live in peace,” said Reema Al-Waridat, one of the main organizers and leaders of the rally.

“Until the root causes of the conflict are addressed, violence in Gaza and the West Bank will continue to erupt every 3-4 years,” said Melonie Buller of Central Ohioans for Peace. “Peace will not be achieved as long as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinians and occupy confiscated Palestinian land.”

Additional Background:

On Saturday, July 30, a UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp came under fire, killing at least 16 of the more than 3,000 refugees using it as a shelter. Many of the dead were women and children. Less than a week later, another UN-run school was shelled, killing 10 people and injuring 30. The targeting of a total of seven UN schools clearly shows that there is nowhere safe for Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

See: Gaza school attacked as children queue for sweets

Gaza’s vital infrastructure was destroyed within the first week of what has become more than a month long offensive. At least 134 factories and 10,000 homes have been destroyed by Israel’s military. Water wells and sewage treatment stations in different parts of Gaza City were targeted, leaving thousands of people without access to clean drinking water.

See: Israeli Jets destroying Gaza water and sewage systems

Israeli shellfire has also destroyed the Gaza Strip’s only electrical power plant. The Power Plant’s shutdown has substantially curtailed the pumping of water to households and the treatment of sewage. Hospitals, already straining to handle the surge of war casualties, have been forced to rely on generators.

See: Widespread Impact of Power Plant Attack

Susie Kneedler adds:

Over 1000 people came last month to our Rally for Justice in Palestine, July 19, 2014 at the Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio.

A History of Police Uniforms—and Why They Matter

8/18/14
Image
Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

The paramilitarisitic uniforms and gear of the St. Louis County Police Department have made headlines as clashes between police and protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, continue. Parallels have been drawn between the influx of heavy, military-style gear into suburban police departments and the starkly adversarial relationship between black residents in Ferguson and the majority-white police forces there. 

Police uniforms have come under similar scrutiny during other times of civil unrest in the U.S. As Norman Stamper, Seattle’s chief of police during the 1999 protests against a World Trade Organization meeting there, told Vox, allowing his officers to dress in full body army and gas masks that made them look "like ninjas" was "an act of provocation," a decision he called the "worst mistake of my career." Keeping officers in their standard uniforms, he explained, would have been "a huge step in the right direction towards de-escalation."

Indeed, the history of police uniforms is an illustrative tale of the history of American policing. What we've asked—and allowed—police officers to wear throughout history has influenced what we've expected of them, how we feel about them, and how they feel about themselves. 

***

What we now think of as the “standard” American police uniform is itself an artifact of war—the Civil War. In many departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, early law-enforcement duds were actually surplus uniforms from the Union Army.

New York City Metropolitan police in uniform, drawn July 1871 (Wikimedia Commons)

Over the next 50 or so years, police departments of the pre-World-War-I era pivoted toward public services to their local communities. Hyperlocal relationships grew up between police departments, citizens and politicians, according criminologist Sergio Herzog. However, this sometimes also fostered hyperlocal corruption. 

The antidote, many felt, was professionalization. U.S. police departments moved towards militarization in an attempt to transform the police into an effective and corruption-free workforce. As Herzog wrote in a 2001 article in Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy:

According to the newly defined "professional" police goals, law enforcement became the exclusive and main specialization area of the police, to be formulated in terms of the intentionally quasi-military metaphor, "war against crime" (rather than a campaign or a struggle against it) by aggressive military means. The new image of the police was characterized by operational and technological sophistication, independence from external and political intervention, tight discipline according to a clear hierarchical scale of powers, obedience to orders and directive, internal control of police activities, and structural division into highly-specialized units. 

Below is a member of the White House Police Force (now the Secret Service) in 1938. His uniform is very similar to soldiers' uniforms of the day. 

(Wikimedia Commons)

For comparison, here's then-Major General C.L. Chennault of the Air Force (right) visiting with Chiang Kai-shek in 1945:

(AP)

And here's a Florida Highway Patrol Officer around 1950, with a uniform similar to what U.S. soldiers and commanders wore in the Pacific theater just a few years earlier. 

(Flickr/Florida Keys Public Libraries)

But policing—and police attire—began to change dramatically in the 1960s. As images of the Kent State shootings and civil rights movement-era abuses flickered across Americans' television screens, departments began to question their own tactics—and their uniforms. The implementation of rigid, military-style policies had not, it turned out, cut down on crime, as murder, rape, and robbery rates steadily rose throughout the 1960s and 70s. They had also led to serious deterioration of relationships between police departments and the communities they were meant to serve. 

Ohio National Guard moves in on rioting students at Kent State University in May, 1970. (AP)

In Burnsville, Wisconsin, Chief of Police David Couper decided to experiment. In the early 1970s, he authorized his special operations units to wear a new kind of uniform, consisting of navy-blue blazers, blue trousers, and clearly written name tags. The cops sort of looked like flight attendants, but that was the point: The dress was part of Couper's larger effort to professionalize his force, and to attract more college-educated officers to Burnsville. 

Burnsville Public Safety Officer
Paul Linnee, circa 1970
(courtesy David Couper)

"The professional dress, with the blazer—[the Burnsville police] didn’t look like the police in the cities where they had problems," Couper says. "It made the officers feel like professionals. They saw our recruiting posters on campus: 'Join the Other Peace Corps.'"

Couper, who soon headed up the force in nearby Madison and implemented his ideas in a larger city, encouraged officers to remove their hats while on walking on the beat, even at night. And he asked that they refrain from wearing those iconic reflective aviator sunglasses while making traffic stops. "Take the glasses off, make eye contact, make sure they know you’re a human being," he told his force. In Madison in the mid-1970s, while patrolling a crowded event that had become violent in the previous year, Couper's officers went without their hats, walked by themselves rather than in large groups, and were instructed to greet every four or so pedestrians. That year, there were no problems, Couper recalls. 

Other police departments took similar steps. In 1969, Menlo Park, California, police traded in their navy blue uniforms for forest green blazers worn over black slacks, white shirts and ties. After wearing the new uniforms for 18 months, the officers exhibited fewer "authoritarian characteristics" on psychological tests, criminologist Richard Johnson wrote in a 2012 study. And after wearing the uniforms for a year, assaults on police officers dropped by 30 percent. Injuries to civilians by police dropped 50 percent. It appeared that the officers' dress had deeply affected their jobs and their communities. According to Johnson, the Menlo Park experiment inspired over 400 other departments to experiment with the blazers. 

For Menlo Park, however, the change was a step too far. By 1977, the department had determined that the blazers did not command enough respect. Eighteen months into the blazer trial, officers discovered, assaults on police officers began to rise steadily, until they were double the amount of the year before. After switching back to more official-style police blues, the assault rates dropped again.

In New York, too, administrators experimented with softer, kinder uniforms. In the 1980s, NYPD officers wore baseball caps, adopted "to look more user friendly," as the New York Times wrote in 1994. But a few years later, the caps were dropped "because they were deemed to add an unprofessional air to policing." By the 1990s, a uniform backlash was under way. “The uniform provides a shield,” Michael Solomon, a psychologist and marketing specialist at Rutgers University, told the Times in 1994. "I think it's a backlash to the touchy-feely approach that drove many departments to make themselves less intimidating. Now it's swinging back the other way because there is the feeling it didn't work."

New York police officers in riot gear during the 1991 violence that followed the death of a black child in the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  (AP Photo/David Burns)

The scales tipped hard after September 11, 2001. The large-scale militarization of the American police force in the years following the terror attacks on New York and Washington. D.C., wasn't a mistake: It was public policy. According to the American Civil Liberties Union report (pdf) on militarization released this June, the Edward R. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant allowed state and local agencies to "purchase hundreds of lethal and less-lethal weapons, tactical vests, and body armor" in 2012 and 2013 alone. That’s why police departments like the one in Ferguson over these last weeks have armored vehicles, night-vision goggles—and camouflage pants. 

Research suggests that soldier-like clothing can truly affect the way police carry out their jobs. As criminologists John Paul and Michael Birzer pointed out in a 2004 paper, training and outfitting police as soldiers can pervert law enforcement's raison d’être. "Soldiers at war operate under a code of domination, not service," they write. "… When police organizations look and act like soldiers, a military mindset is created that declares war on the American public. In this mentality, the American streets become the 'front' and American citizens exist as 'enemy combatants.'"

Former Wisconsin Chief of Police David Couper puts it more simply. “When you put that [bullet-proof] vest on, it changes things,” he says. “You think, ‘My gosh—there are people out there trying to hurt me. But there are not a lot of people out there trying to hurt you. And if there are people who want to hurt you, they can.” 

***

Beyond the military gear, even modern American police departments' day-to-day uniforms reflect a new approach to law and order. A number of departments have tended towards all-black uniforms, for instance. 

A Los Angeles Police Department officer participates in the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Champions Los Angeles Kings Victory Parade. (Flickr/Prayitno)
New York City Police Department officers, 2013. (Flickr/torbakhopper)

A 2008 study by criminologist Ernest Nickels asked 150 undergraduate students to evaluate police officers based on their uniform colors. Surprisingly, the students largely favored the officers dressed in all black. Perhaps, Nickels hypothesized, their preference had something to do with their desire to be protected. He wrote:

In countries such as the USA, awash in procedural cop dramas and reality programming about policing on television, popular culture would seem to hold a certain infatuation with the crime-fighter mystique. This elevation in status for the police would seem to coincide with the transformation of the West toward a culture of control. The cultural shift toward values of safety and order over liberty and justice seems to give the police new resonance as symbols of the emergent moral order. A civic religion based upon rule of law might find its temple in the courthouse; one devoted to law and order would tend to find it instead in the police station.

These days, perhaps the majority of Americans want our police forces in the color in which we dress our judges, our clergy, and our avenging superheroes: black. 

***

Back in Ferguson, the Highway State Patrol took over policing duties late last week. Many expressed relief that the officers—and particularly their African-American captain, Ron Johnson—wore very different uniforms than their county-police predecessors, indicating some hope for improved police-community relations.

Couper noticed something different. "I saw what Ron Johnson was wearing," he says, "and I thought, 'He isn’t wearing his hat.'"

 








A History of Police Uniforms—and Why They Matter

8/18/14
Image
Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

The paramilitarisitic uniforms and gear of the St. Louis County Police Department have made headlines as clashes between police and protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, continue. Parallels have been drawn between the influx of heavy, military-style gear into suburban police departments and the starkly adversarial relationship between black residents in Ferguson and the majority-white police forces there. 

Police uniforms have come under similar scrutiny during other times of civil unrest in the U.S. As Norman Stamper, Seattle’s chief of police during the 1999 protests against a World Trade Organization meeting there, told Vox, allowing his officers to dress in full body army and gas masks that made them look "like ninjas" was "an act of provocation," a decision he called the "worst mistake of my career." Keeping officers in their standard uniforms, he explained, would have been "a huge step in the right direction towards de-escalation."

Indeed, the history of police uniforms is an illustrative tale of the history of American policing. What we've asked—and allowed—police officers to wear throughout history has influenced what we've expected of them, how we feel about them, and how they feel about themselves. 

***

What we now think of as the “standard” American police uniform is itself an artifact of war—the Civil War. In many departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, early law-enforcement duds were actually surplus uniforms from the Union Army.

New York City Metropolitan police in uniform, drawn July 1871 (Wikimedia Commons)

Over the next 50 or so years, police departments of the pre-World-War-I era pivoted toward public services to their local communities. Hyperlocal relationships grew up between police departments, citizens and politicians, according criminologist Sergio Herzog. However, this sometimes also fostered hyperlocal corruption. 

The antidote, many felt, was professionalization. U.S. police departments moved towards militarization in an attempt to transform the police into an effective and corruption-free workforce. As Herzog wrote in a 2001 article in Policing and Society: An International Journal of Research and Policy:

According to the newly defined "professional" police goals, law enforcement became the exclusive and main specialization area of the police, to be formulated in terms of the intentionally quasi-military metaphor, "war against crime" (rather than a campaign or a struggle against it) by aggressive military means. The new image of the police was characterized by operational and technological sophistication, independence from external and political intervention, tight discipline according to a clear hierarchical scale of powers, obedience to orders and directive, internal control of police activities, and structural division into highly-specialized units. 

Below is a member of the White House Police Force (now the Secret Service) in 1938. His uniform is very similar to soldiers' uniforms of the day. 

(Wikimedia Commons)

For comparison, here's then-Major General C.L. Chennault of the Air Force (right) visiting with Chiang Kai-shek in 1945:

(AP)

And here's a Florida Highway Patrol Officer around 1950, with a uniform similar to what U.S. soldiers and commanders wore in the Pacific theater just a few years earlier. 

(Flickr/Florida Keys Public Libraries)

But policing—and police attire—began to change dramatically in the 1960s. As images of the Kent State shootings and civil rights movement-era abuses flickered across Americans' television screens, departments began to question their own tactics—and their uniforms. The implementation of rigid, military-style policies had not, it turned out, cut down on crime, as murder, rape, and robbery rates steadily rose throughout the 1960s and 70s. They had also led to serious deterioration of relationships between police departments and the communities they were meant to serve. 

Ohio National Guard moves in on rioting students at Kent State University in May, 1970. (AP)

In Burnsville, Wisconsin, Chief of Police David Couper decided to experiment. In the early 1970s, he authorized his special operations units to wear a new kind of uniform, consisting of navy-blue blazers, blue trousers, and clearly written name tags. The cops sort of looked like flight attendants, but that was the point: The dress was part of Couper's larger effort to professionalize his force, and to attract more college-educated officers to Burnsville. 

Burnsville Public Safety Officer
Paul Linnee, circa 1970
(courtesy David Couper)

"The professional dress, with the blazer—[the Burnsville police] didn’t look like the police in the cities where they had problems," Couper says. "It made the officers feel like professionals. They saw our recruiting posters on campus: 'Join the Other Peace Corps.'"

Couper, who soon headed up the force in nearby Madison and implemented his ideas in a larger city, encouraged officers to remove their hats while on walking on the beat, even at night. And he asked that they refrain from wearing those iconic reflective aviator sunglasses while making traffic stops. "Take the glasses off, make eye contact, make sure they know you’re a human being," he told his force. In Madison in the mid-1970s, while patrolling a crowded event that had become violent in the previous year, Couper's officers went without their hats, walked by themselves rather than in large groups, and were instructed to greet every four or so pedestrians. That year, there were no problems, Couper recalls. 

Other police departments took similar steps. In 1969, Menlo Park, California, police traded in their navy blue uniforms for forest green blazers worn over black slacks, white shirts and ties. After wearing the new uniforms for 18 months, the officers exhibited fewer "authoritarian characteristics" on psychological tests, criminologist Richard Johnson wrote in a 2012 study. And after wearing the uniforms for a year, assaults on police officers dropped by 30 percent. Injuries to civilians by police dropped 50 percent. It appeared that the officers' dress had deeply affected their jobs and their communities. According to Johnson, the Menlo Park experiment inspired over 400 other departments to experiment with the blazers. 

For Menlo Park, however, the change was a step too far. By 1977, the department had determined that the blazers did not command enough respect. Eighteen months into the blazer trial, officers discovered, assaults on police officers began to rise steadily, until they were double the amount of the year before. After switching back to more official-style police blues, the assault rates dropped again.

In New York, too, administrators experimented with softer, kinder uniforms. In the 1980s, NYPD officers wore baseball caps, adopted "to look more user friendly," as the New York Times wrote in 1994. But a few years later, the caps were dropped "because they were deemed to add an unprofessional air to policing." By the 1990s, a uniform backlash was under way. “The uniform provides a shield,” Michael Solomon, a psychologist and marketing specialist at Rutgers University, told the Times in 1994. "I think it's a backlash to the touchy-feely approach that drove many departments to make themselves less intimidating. Now it's swinging back the other way because there is the feeling it didn't work."

New York police officers in riot gear during the 1991 violence that followed the death of a black child in the Hasidic Jewish neighborhood of Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  (AP Photo/David Burns)

The scales tipped hard after September 11, 2001. The large-scale militarization of the American police force in the years following the terror attacks on New York and Washington. D.C., wasn't a mistake: It was public policy. According to the American Civil Liberties Union report (pdf) on militarization released this June, the Edward R. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant allowed state and local agencies to "purchase hundreds of lethal and less-lethal weapons, tactical vests, and body armor" in 2012 and 2013 alone. That’s why police departments like the one in Ferguson over these last weeks have armored vehicles, night-vision goggles—and camouflage pants. 

Research suggests that soldier-like clothing can truly affect the way police carry out their jobs. As criminologists John Paul and Michael Birzer pointed out in a 2004 paper, training and outfitting police as soldiers can pervert law enforcement's raison d’être. "Soldiers at war operate under a code of domination, not service," they write. "… When police organizations look and act like soldiers, a military mindset is created that declares war on the American public. In this mentality, the American streets become the 'front' and American citizens exist as 'enemy combatants.'"

Former Wisconsin Chief of Police David Couper puts it more simply. “When you put that [bullet-proof] vest on, it changes things,” he says. “You think, ‘My gosh—there are people out there trying to hurt me. But there are not a lot of people out there trying to hurt you. And if there are people who want to hurt you, they can.” 

***

Beyond the military gear, even modern American police departments' day-to-day uniforms reflect a new approach to law and order. A number of departments have tended towards all-black uniforms, for instance. 

A Los Angeles Police Department officer participates in the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Champions Los Angeles Kings Victory Parade. (Flickr/Prayitno)
New York City Police Department officers, 2013. (Flickr/torbakhopper)

A 2008 study by criminologist Ernest Nickels asked 150 undergraduate students to evaluate police officers based on their uniform colors. Surprisingly, the students largely favored the officers dressed in all black. Perhaps, Nickels hypothesized, their preference had something to do with their desire to be protected. He wrote:

In countries such as the USA, awash in procedural cop dramas and reality programming about policing on television, popular culture would seem to hold a certain infatuation with the crime-fighter mystique. This elevation in status for the police would seem to coincide with the transformation of the West toward a culture of control. The cultural shift toward values of safety and order over liberty and justice seems to give the police new resonance as symbols of the emergent moral order. A civic religion based upon rule of law might find its temple in the courthouse; one devoted to law and order would tend to find it instead in the police station.

These days, perhaps the majority of Americans want our police forces in the color in which we dress our judges, our clergy, and our avenging superheroes: black. 

***

Back in Ferguson, the Highway State Patrol took over policing duties late last week. Many expressed relief that the officers—and particularly their African-American captain, Ron Johnson—wore very different uniforms than their county-police predecessors, indicating some hope for improved police-community relations.

Couper noticed something different. "I saw what Ron Johnson was wearing," he says, "and I thought, 'He isn’t wearing his hat.'"

 








Lake Erie Algae Bloom Crisis Is Putting Pressure On Ohio, Farm States To Tackle Agricultural Pollution Problems

8/16/14

On the shores of Lake Erie, the immediate sense of crisis has passed. Following the toxic algae that bloomed in the lake earlier this month, forcing residents of Toledo, Ohio to rely on bottled water for their drinking supply, authorities now offer assurances that the tap water is safe.