Tag: Law enforcement

Wednesday Quick Hits

A few stories that have been lurking in my tabs:

  • Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return was leaked last week and showed a nearly billion dollar loss that he could have used to offset profits for years and thus pay no tax. It’s perfectly legitimate to criticize Trump for losing a billion dollars and proclaiming himself to be a business genius. Criticizing the NOL rule, however, is insanity. Allowing businesses to carry losses into future years allows them to navigate sometimes uncertain business waters without going bankrupt. Criticizing the rule because of Trump is sheer wealth envy. Trump should be making this point.
  • You remember the Phoenix VA scandal? Well, the government responded to this disaster by … funding the VA more generously, firing no one and appointing a new manager who had a series of failures. Stunningly, this has not worked. Coyote Blog reminds us that this is how government works. Failure means you get more funding and more people. Success means budget cuts.
  • An Iowa prosecutor wants to hit a 14-year-old with kiddie porn charges for taking non-nude pictures of herself. This is insanity. And it will not stop until we start shitcanning prosecutors who abuse their power this way.
  • John Oliver had a good show on police accountability.

More to come …

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

Two days, two police killings caught on video. The first was of Alton Sterling, who was selling CDs outside a store. Based on a tip, the police showed up to arrest him. Sterling, who had a gun, was being held pinned down by two cops when one shouted, “He’s got a gun!” The other officer then shot him point blank in the chest, killing him. There is horrific video of the shooting which you can find at the links but I won’t embed.

The second shooting was yesterday of Philando Castile, a man who worked in a Montessori school, had no record and had a concealed carry permit. His girlfriend claims that they were pulled over for a broken tail light. He informed the officer that he had a weapon, then reached for his wallet when instructed, at which point he was shot and killed. The video starts after the shooting and you can hear the officer yelling that he was going for his gun while the girlfriend says he was going for his ID. Later, they cuffed both the girlfriend and the four-year-old who was in the back seat. It was eerily reminiscent of the South Carolina shooting of a man going for his license.

Naturally, we have to wait until more information comes out. But both of these incidents look very very bad. In both cases, we have cops who reacted to what they thought was a dangerous situation but probably wasn’t. In both cases, they had guns drawn in situations where it’s not clear that was necessary. Sterling did not appear to be going for his gun and we don’t have any information that Castile was either. But in both cases, the officers reacted to the presence of a gun — one in an open-carry state, one with a concealed carry permit — as if the presence of the gun was automatically a threat.

Balko, who thinks the Sterling shooting may have been the result of a miscommunication between the officers:

Was Sterling resisting? It’s difficult to say, as is often the case with these videos. He may have been. But what looks like resisting often isn’t conscious fighting back or an affirmative attempt to hurt or injure police officers so much as instinctual self-defense. If the cops bend your arm in a way that it doesn’t want to bend, you feel pain. Your body tells you to resist whatever or whoever is bending your arm in that manner. So you push back. That isn’t aggression; it’s a natural product of our aversion to pain. Similarly, a suspect flat on pavement with a knee in his back or with multiple officers putting their weight on him may try to lift his chest. That can look like the suspect is trying to get up, resisting orders, and possibly trying to attack the officers. But he may also simply be trying to create some space to breathe. Many people panic when trapped under a lot of weight. Panic isn’t also aggression. It’s an attempt to survive.

All of which is why training police in de-escalation is so important. Physical confrontation like the kind we see in this video immediately raises the stakes and narrows the margin for error for everyone involved. A misheard directive, a misinterpreted gesture, or any other miscommunication can quickly become fatal.

If we really want to reduce fatal police shootings instead of merely adjudicating them, we need to train officers in tactics that subdue threats, reward those who resolve threats without violence, and discourage actions that create unnecessary confrontation, violence, and escalation. And when these shootings are investigated — be it by the DOJ, internal affairs departments, local prosecutors or an outside agencies — it’s time to start looking beyond whether or not the shooting was justified under the black letter of the law. It’s time to start asking whether the shooting was preventable — and if it was, whether the failure to prevent it was due to poor training, bad policies, or police officers acting in contravention of policies or training.

Was it legal? is the question we ask when deciding whether or not to prosecute. Was it preventable? is the question we need to ask to save lives.

That’s the key point. We are constantly told the policing is the most dangerous job in America (it isn’t in the top ten), that there is a war on cops (policing is safer than it’s been in over a century) and that there is a constant danger of ambushes (literally less than one in a million chance). We give officers pseudo-military training and tell them to react before they think because the world is full of people who want to kill cops. We give them military weapons and send them on SWAT raids. And then we act all surprised when a thousand people get gunned down by cops every year.

If you watch the videos, listen to the officers’ voices. They are nearly hysterical. Their reaction is nothing so much as, “What the hell just happened?” They are trying to justify what they just did. That’s a key point that’s missing here — the emphasis on aggressive policing creates bad and dangerous situations for civilians and cops. When you are in an emergency situation, you react on instinct. If that instinct is to be aggressive, you will be aggressive because you don’t have time for thought to intervene. If policing tactics emphasized de-escalation, not only would we have less civilians on the ground, we’d have less cops holding a smoking gun wondering what the hell they just did. And maybe a few less getting shot by deranged or scared civilians.

There are other issues here, of course. We need to decrease the number of laws and the number of interactions between cops and civilians. We especially need to rid ourselves of laws governing non-violent behavior, like selling CDs or having busted tail lights. The issue of race will be at the heart of this. And all the Second Amendment advocates should be appalled by a conceal-carry holder being shot like this (modulo any other facts that come out).

But the main thing we need to do is stop treating our country like it’s a war zone. Twenty years ago, crime was out of control. It has fallen precipitously since then. Even if aggressive tactics were justified in the 90’s — and I would argue about that — they are no longer necessary. If we’re going to give cops guns and body armor and send them out to enforce the law, if we’re going to make sure that citizens can exercise their Second Amendment right, we have to emphasize ways that these two things can co-exist without a law-abiding man bleeding to death in front of a handcuffed four-year-old girl.

No Surprises on Tamir Rice

I wish I could say I’m surprised that there was no indictment in the Tamir Rice case. But I’m not. It has been obvious for a while that this was coming. It was obvious from the War on Cops bullshit that was trotted out every time the case was discussed (this year will end up being the second safest year for cops on record — behind 2013). It was obvious from the talk by prosecutors about how we could only judge the officers about what happened in those two seconds between when they jumped out of the car and when they shot him. It was obvious from the way no one cared that the officers’ initial statements were full of lies or that they left Rice to bleed to death after he was shot. It was obvious from when the prosecutors tapped Kim Crawford as their forensic expert — a woman who once said shooting an unarmed woman carrying a baby through the head was justified. It was obvious from the statements about Tamir Rice’s father (and today’s statements about Rice himself).

And that’s really the point. We’re no longer surprised when two officers — one of which had a settled excessive force complaint; one of whom resigned from another police job because of his emotional instability — roll up in a car, give a 12-year old boy two seconds to react before gunning him down, leave him to bleed to death like a dog, arrest his sister and have a grand jury decided that it was all justified. That’s where we are on law enforcement accountability. We’re lucky they’re not getting medals.

Let’s just hope the protests are peaceful.

Turkeys and Drumsticks 2015

For eight years running, I have taken advantage of the Thanksgiving Holiday to give out my awards for Turkey of the Year and Golden Drumsticks. The latter are for those who exemplify the best traits in our public sphere. The former are for those who exemplify silliness and stupidity. I rarely give them out to someone who is evil; they are reserved for those who regularly make me shake my head and wonder what they’re thinking. It’s a sort of “thank you” for making blogging easier.

We’ll start with the Turkeys of the Year. For reference, the past winners are:

2007: Alberto Gonzalez, Nancy Pelosi, Hugo Chavez

2008: Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin’s critics, Hillary Clinton, Congress, Joe Biden

2009: Mike Steele, Glen Beck, the State Department, Sarah Palin, Andrew Sullivan.

2010: Janet Napolitano and TSA, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, MSNBC, Lower Merion Schools, California Voters.

2011: Nancy Pelosi, Republican Presidential Field, Occupy Wall Street, Anthony Weiner, the Eurozone.

2012: The Culture Warriors, Unions, The Poll Unskewers, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, MSNBC

2013: Healthcare.gov, the Platinum Coin, the Shutdown Caucus, the National Park Service, Fiscal Cliff Panic Mongers.

2014: Jonathan Gruber, Lamenting Democrats, Barack Obama, Jim Ardis, Paul Krugman

For This Year:

The Presidential Field: Here are your candidates for 2016:

On the Democratic side, a 68-year old political insider with a 30-year track record of deception, vindictiveness and blame evasion, running on her record of having unleashed chaos in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Then there’s the 74-year-old socialist, rejected because his views on gun control are insufficiently pure. Then there’s the “young” guy running on his horrible track record as mayor of a failed city and governor of a failed state. And, because things weren’t surreal enough, there was the former senator who looked like he’d gotten baked on his yacht and accidentally wandered into a Presidential debate.

On the Republican side, you have the reality TV show star with narcissistic personality disorder who has an iffy relationship with the truth and seems determined to insult every demographic he can. You have the brilliant brain surgeon who is clueless on policy and has crackpot ideas about history. You have the asshole Texas senator. You have the President of a nearly collapsed company running on her record as a businesswoman. You have the worst Bush yet, somehow managing to piss away the complete support of the establishment. And then you have a bunch of little guys vying to get 3% support so they can stay in the big debate.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Coolidge, Reagan, Bush I … and one of these guys. Ay, caramba.

So far, the only ones who impressed me are Webb and Rubio (see below). One is out and the other is still in fourth place.

College Students: Have you guys seen Life of Brian? In that movie, the anti-Roman guerrillas spend way more time fighting each other than fighting the Romans. This was modeled on 1970’s left-wing radical who hated the government but hated each other more for “splitting” the movement and being insufficiently ideologically pure. This process is happening with political correctness as they slowly turn on each other.

Think of what we’ve been seeing. Who are college students forcing out of positions of power? Who are they screaming at in public squares? Who are they banning from bringing cameras into their “safe spaces”? This ire is directed against people who agree with them on 95% of the issues. Occasionally, there are real issues. But all too much of the anger is because lectures on European history are too European, because there aren’t enough tenured professors of women’s studies, because someone suggested, maybe, that it wasn’t the university’s job to tell grown men and women what Halloween costumes to wear.

Previous generations of college students protested against wars, against vicious racism and against in loco parentis. This generation is protesting against offenses so trivial they are literally called “microgggressions”.

The Election Media: It’s a little under a year until the election and I’m already exhausted. They’ve pronounced Trump dead at least eight times. They’re bending over backward to not criticize Clinton. And they’re doing nothing to illuminate the issues with their focus on the horse race.

Rolling Stone: Last year, they published a horrifying tale of a campus rape that turned out to be a fiction. The blame laid squarely on them. They didn’t bother to call the fraternity in question. They didn’t bother to talk to the supposed victim’s friends. They didn’t bother to read the rather famous (in Charlottesville) book about a rape that the victim took her story from. That’s horrible. What moves them into mockery land is their refusal to take responsibility. No one was fired. They blamed it on the victim for being a good liar. And now they’re being sued for millions.

(And it would seem the lesson has not been learned. The Hunting Ground, a new and much-praised, documentary about campus rape, has an equally problematic relationship with the truth.)

Barack Obama: He pronounced ISIS contained days before they attacked Paris. His Obamacare is seeing double-digit rate increases and companies leaving because they’re hemorrhaging money. His Iran deal is … dubious. The Democratic nominees are trying to pretend that Republicans have secretly been President for the last eight years. His attempts to gin up support for Syrian refugees infuriated half the country.

Maybe he needs to appear between two ferns again.

Dishonorable Mention: Kim Davis, Jeremy Corbyn, Vox, Everytown USA, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Vox, Bill deBlasio, the NFL, the anti-vaxxers, Sepp Blatter, Greece, Volkswagen, Putin.

Now the Golden Drumsticks, awarded to those who best exemplified what is right with the world. Here are the past awards, the first round from West Virginia Rebel.

2007: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ron Paul, Barack Obama, David Petraeus, Juan Carlos, Burma’s monks

2008: US Military, Jeff Flake, Ron Paul, Republican Governors, Barack Obama

2009: The American Fighting Man, Kimberly Munley and Mark Todd, George W. Bush

2010: The Tea Party, Chris Christie, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, the Next Wave of Republicans, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, The American Soldiers

2011: Seal Team Six, Mark Kelly, The Arab Spring, the Technicians at Fukushima

2012: Down Ballots, The Sandy Responders, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, Mathew Inman

2013: Francis I, Edward Snowden, Rand Paul, The American Military, The Institute for Justice

2014: Ebola Responders, Francis I, Rand Paul, David Brat, The Supreme Court

For 2015:

New Horizons and Dawn: It was another banner year for science, headlined by New Horizons stunning visit to Pluto and Dawn‘s visit to Ceres. The Philae lander also revived and began providing more data from a sublimating comet. In other science news, rubella has been rendered extinct in North America and polio is on the run.

Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler: These are the three men who stopped a would-be terrorist on a French train. Stone came home … where he got stabbed protecting a friend. As Charles Cooke said, we’re a few news cycles away from finding out this guy is Batman.

Amnesty International: In the face of withering criticism and a rising intense moral panic about sex trafficking, they did the right thing: called for the complete decriminalization of sex work for both providers and clients.

Video and Body Cameras: There are legitimate civil liberties concerns when it comes to cops always carrying cameras on them, especially with our culture’s tendency to exploit and shame people doing things on tape. But they are making a huge difference. They not only show when cops do bad things (such as recent horrific shootings in Chicago and Marksville), they exonerate cops who’ve been falsely accused of brutality or sexual harassment. For cities that have implemented them, complaints about police brutality and abuse are way down, both because cops are acting better and because people find it harder to make false claims. There are still issue to work out about when and how footage becomes public. But I think this is a big help on the way to criminal justice reform.

The Non-Crazy Presidential Candidates: Marco Rubio may not get the nomination and Rand Paul definitely won’t. But they’ve injected some much-needed sanity and real debate into the Republican primary. Jim Webb gets a shout-out here too for trying (and failing) to find a moderate stream of Democrat.

Honorable Mention: USA women’s soccer team, the American military, France, Francis I.

Put your nominees in the comments. And have a great Thanksgiving.

Seize the Legislature

I’ve made it clear many times: asset forfeiture is one of the most vile things our federal and state governments do. This is the process by which law enforcement seizes people’s money, homes, cars and other assets and … well, sometimes that’s it. Sometimes they charge them with a crime … eventually. Some states have tried to reign it in, but the Feds have created an “equitable sharing” program in which law enforcement can bypass state regulations by having a “joint investigation” with the Feds. They turn over the money to the Feds, who take a cut and then give the rest back. The wonderful Institute for Justice calls this “policing for profit”.

If this sounds like a criminal enterprise it should. Entire sections of highway have now become revenue streams for law enforcement. And I’ll give you three guesses as to the skin color of the people this happens to the most often.

Earlier this month, California tried to pull the plug on this literal highway robbery. Yesterday, that effort collapsed:

Yesterday, California Senate Bill 443 went down in flames in the state’s Assembly. The bill, sponsored by Democrat Holly Mitchell in the Senate and Republican David Hadley in the Assembly, would have reformed the state’s asset forfeiture regulations to require that police and prosecutors actually convict citizens of crimes before seizing ownership of their assets to spend on themselves.

Imagine that. Almost as if no one should be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

The bill originally passed overwhelmingly in the state Senate earlier in the year, but then police and prosecutors got wind of it and began a campaign of fearmongering against it, telling legislators it would threaten budgets and would cut law enforcement out of the federal asset forfeiture sharing program. The law had been stripped down so that the state would be able to continue participating in the federal program, but even that wasn’t enough. It didn’t even get close to passing the Assembly.

Here’s my proposal. The citizens of California should seize the assets of every legislator who voted against this bill under suspicion of corruption. After all, this is the body that once included Leland Yee, who has now pled guilty to racketeering charges that involved bribery, gun-running and money laundering. Under the rules of engagement that the legislature is clearly comfortable with, any legislator with a lot of money should be presumed guilty, his assets seized and onus put on him to prove his innocence.

Hey, fair is fair, assholes. If you’re going to treat the common citizen like walking law enforcement piggy banks, it’s time you ponied up too.

It’s Cute When We Do It: SWATing Edition

What could possibly go wrong?

As more states relax rules about open-carrying of guns, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has taken to social media to urge the public to assume gun-toters are trouble, and to call the cops on anyone they feel may be a threat.

“If you see someone carrying a firearm in public—openly or concealed—and have ANY doubts about their intent, call 911 immediately and ask police to come to the scene,” the group wrote on its widely followed Facebook page. “Never put your safety, or the safety of your loved ones, at the mercy of weak gun laws that arm individuals in public with little or no criminal and/or mental health screening.”

That approach, according to a blog post by Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, could give rise to needless, tense confrontations between police and gun owners. The association and other similar groups liken the tactic to “swatting,” or the act of tricking an emergency service into dispatching responders based on a false report. Many online harassment campaigns have been known to participate in the practice.

As it happens, conceal carry permit holders are far less likely than the general public to be a threat. The gun control lobby knows (or should know it) and is ignoring it in their effort to harass gun owners.

I don’t know how wide-spread this tactic is. This may just be one or a few jackasses calling for this. But Jazz zeros in on the hypocrisy:

While this is a bad idea (and a criminal one) under any circumstances, it’s a particularly cynical and hypocritical move on the part of the gun grabbers. They tend to be almost exclusively liberal and have a large crossover with the same groups who are constantly complaining about violent encounters between the police and suspects. The atmosphere around the nation is particularly tense for law enforcement officers as more and more of them are murdered and criminals become more brazen [Hal: actually, crime and violent crime are down in most of the country and cops are less like to be attacked than ever]. Sending the cops out on a call where they have been falsely informed that someone is “acting suspicious” and is clearly armed just puts everyone on a hair trigger… literally.

Anyone remember Tamir Rice? Like, from a few months ago? He was killed because a citizen called in a report about someone with a gun (the part where the citizen said it might be a fake was not relayed to the officers). Anyone remember John Crawford? He was killed for the same reason. So the lesson the gun grabbers take is that we should be doing this to gun owners?

It’s almost as if they want there to be violent confrontations between law enforcement and gun owners. For years, the gun grabbers claimed that conceal and open carry laws would result in bloodbaths in the streets. People would be blazing away over car accidents. But that didn’t happen. Violence has continued to fall, permit holders continue to be peaceful and the case for gun control gets weaker every year.

I guarantee you that the first time this tactic results in a gun owner or a police officer being shot, the gun grabbers will milk it to the maximum. The blame won’t be on the gun grabber who called in a report or the training that lead to the over-reaction. No, it will be blamed on the gun.

Because when you’ve decided that guns in the hands of citizens are an evil, almost anything becomes justified.

BLM Proposes

Last week, I agreed with Hillary Clinton that if Black Lives Matter wanted to make a difference, they needed to propose actual laws and policies, not just “raise awareness”. This week, they’ve come out with a list of proposals and … it’s actually pretty reasonable. They propose things like better police training, an end to asset forfeiture and broken windows policing, independent investigation of police shootings, body cameras. There are a few things I would disagree with but, overall, this is pretty mainstream and in line with what many conservatives have been talking about, especially asset forfeiture reform and demilitarization.

Radley Balko notes that while these proposals are reasonable, they are likely to portrayed as radical by police unions who are used to having the media and politicians mindlessly parrot their spokesmen. But:

There is at least some reason to be more optimistic this time around. The main reason is that the problems in policing are starting to affect people who have the status and power to do something about them. One reason we’re starting to see conservative opposition to police militarization, for example, is that police militarization is starting to affect conservatives. We’re seeing regulatory agencies with armed police forces, some even with tactical teams. We’re seeing SWAT-like tactics used to enforce zoning laws and low-level crimes. We’re seeing heavy-handed force used to collect cigarette taxes or to enforce regulatory law.

Similarly, while how and when police use lethal force has a disproportionate effect on communities of color, there has been no shortage of stories about unarmed white people killed by police. There are problems in policing that are directly related to race, such as profiling, bias and an irrational fear of black criminality. But there are also problems in policing that affect people of all races, such as the use of lethal force, unnecessary escalation and the prioritizing of officer safety over all else. (Even these problems disproportionately affect black and brown people.)

Do we dare say that … all lives matter? A government that can launch an armed SWAT raid against Okra plants is a danger to everyone, black white or Dolezal.

In my original post, I said that the best way to address the problems in law enforcement is for government to “make itself less powerful, less intrusive, more accountable and more respectful of our basic civil liberties.” Black Lives Matter’s proposals do exactly that. Ultimately, we will have to address the massive size and scope of government. The less the law is involved in our lives, the less chance there is for that involvement to go wrong. But shaping reform around BLM’s proposals would be a great first step toward addressing the problems and building a better relationship between police and their communities.

Sandra Bland

The big news this week is the arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland. An activist soon to start a job at Prairie View A&M, she was arrested after being pulled over for failing to signal a turn, then found dead in her cell. Her death was ruled a suicide but is now being investigated as a murder

Yesterday, dash cam footage was released. In it, Bland is told to put out her cigarette by the officer. When she refuses, the situation escalates almost immediately as the officer orders out of the car, threatens her with a taser and arrests her. There is then a confrontation off camera where the officer says she assaulted him, which was the reason she went to jail (although she was arrested before the assault).

A lot of things to unpack here.

First, was the officer within his power to order her out of the car? Jacob Sullum goes over the legal issues and the answer is “maybe”.

Based on their comments in the video, Encinia and Bland clearly agreed that the escalation from warning to arrest was ridiculous, but they had diametrically opposed views of who was to blame. If only Bland had been more respectful and cooperative, Encinia thought, she could have been on her way. If only Encinia had not been so determined to assert his authority for its own sake, Bland thought, he never would have forced her out of the car, let alone handcuffed her and knocked her down.

Second, I keep thinking of what Radley Balko often says about police shootings: even if the shooting itself was justified, there were often errors and bad decisions leading up to that point. Even if arresting Bland for assaulting an officer was justified, the decisions leading up to that are questionable at best. I think that pulling Bland out of her car, threatening her with a taser and arresting her was a bit of an over-reaction to someone for talking back (mildly at first, but becoming more confrontational as the arrest proceeds as she yells at him and calls him “a pussy”).

Finally, there is the big issue of the circumstances of Bland’s death. All indications are that Bland was not the kind to kill herself and I think a full and thorough investigation is warranted. We’ve had a few of these incidents, including at least two incidents were a person who had been searched, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car supposedly found a gun and shot himself to death.

That having been said … we should be prepared if it turns out that she did indeed kill herself. Suicides tend to be impulsive and Bland’s family wouldn’t be the first to be shocked by a unexpected suicide. Last year, we were told over and over again that there was no way Michael Brown would attack a police officer and then charge into gunfire. The argument convinced me to be skeptical of the officer’s version of events. But it turned out to be the truth. Sometimes people do stupid, irrational and tragic things.

So, yes, let’s investigate the death. And let’s also ask questions about why a routine traffic stop ended in an arrest. And let’s accept the answers, whatever they are.

The Nanny State Strikes Again

Every time I think we’ve reached a new low with people freaking out about kids, we manage to break through the bottom of the barrel:

Laura Browder said she had her 6-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son with her at Memorial City Mall for a job interview because she didn’t have enough time to line up child care. Browder sat her children down inside the food court near a McDonald’s and went to her interview, she said. The interview wasn’t for a job at the mall, but the food court was a meeting ground for each party.

Browder said she wasn’t more than 30 feet away from her children at any point and they were always in her line of sight. After Browder returned to her children, a police officer was on scene and arrested her.

The arrest came moments after Browder had accepted a job. She said she’s unsure how her arrest that day will affect her opportunity with that job.

CPS officials said they’re still in the early stages of their investigation, but added they could offer services to help Browder find suitable daycare.

This isn’t just ridiculous, it’s cruel. This is a single mother going to college trying to get a job. I’d be a bit nervous about leaving a 6-year-old and a toddler by themselves as way, but arresting her and charging her with abandonment is just absurd. Maybe there’s more to the story, but the information we have now makes it seem like an absurd over-reaction.

Baltimore Into the Abyss

Wow:

May was the most lethal month in [Baltimore] in more than 40 years; in per capita terms, it may have been the bloodiest month since recordkeeping began.

There were 43 victims of homicide in the city last month, the most since August 1972, when Baltimore ’s population, now 600,000, was about 900,000. In addition, there were 108 nonfatal shootings in May, nearly triple the number recorded the same month last year. Over the three-day Memorial Day weekend alone, the city recorded 32 shootings and nine homicides.

As Baltimore’s streets succumb to the wave of carnage, the police have simply withdrawn, by many accounts. Harassed, hooted at and openly hated in the wake of the arrest of Freddie Gray, whose death in custody triggered the rioting in April, uniformed officers seem to have decided not to do their jobs.

Arrests, already down from 2014 levels before the rioting, have plummeted by more than 50 percent since then. Community leaders in Sandtown — the area where Mr. Gray was arrested — say there is a deliberate effort on the police department’s part to vacate the streets and see how the community likes it.

On Fox News, one officer, his face and voice obscured, explained the cops’ “reasoning.” “After the protests, it seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,” he said. He went on to blame the city’s leadership for not having officers’ backs and prosecutors for indicting the six police officers in whose custody Mr. Gray was fatally injured.

This is not unprecedented. Cops in New York engaged in a slowdown after the Eric Garner non-indictment and some subsequent comments by the Mayor.

First thing first: the blame for this surge of violence obviously belongs with the communities. When two cops were assassinated in December, I wrote the following:

I am not an anarchist. We can see around the world how thin the veneer of civilization is and how easily it is destroyed. Law and order are a huge improvement over the lack thereof, no matter how poorly they are enforced. It’s one thing to criticize police and demand reform and changes. It’s one thing to defend yourself if, for example, cops smash down your door in the middle of the night and you have no idea what’s going on. People can and should oppose aggressive policing and the intrusion of government into their lives. But the deliberate and cold-blooded murder of two policemen is an attack on civilization, on the idea of law and order.

The primary problem we have with policing in the United States is not a bunch of evil cops running around. It is a political leadership that has given them a million laws to enforce, authorized an aggressive war on voluntary behavior, shoved assault weapons and tanks into their hands and chipped away at accountability. The system is failing the police as thoroughly as it is failing the rest of us.

I was mocked a bit for my line on attacking civilization, but look at what’s going on in Baltimore right now. Most people are good. Most people — even in the worst part of Baltimore — won’t run around killing and stealing. But you only need a small fraction to be bad for the system to collapse. And now that it has … I’m not sure the genie can be put back in the bottle. This may be the final nail in Baltimore’s coffin.

All that having been said, the idea that the police slowdown was justified by the actions of Baltimore’s Mayor and the prosecution of the six cops is ridiculous. It’s another sign of a police leadership and union leadership that are increasingly isolated from reality. The cops and their union reps have come to expect unwavering and absolute loyalty from political leadership and get extremely agitated when they don’t get it (the link includes an interview with FOP head Jim Pasco. Among other things, he says that people who videotape cops should get 15 years in prison).

After the Freddie Gray incident, the Baltimore cops have been saying that the prosecution is making them “hesitant” and shows that they are being “thrown under the bus” by the mayor and the prosecutor. Balko:

So because a prosecutor has charged the six cops who illegally arrested a man and gave him a “rough ride” in the back of a police van that resulted in his death, all Baltimore cops are now afraid to use force. How does this follow? It would be logical if they were now hesitant to give rough rides — and that of a course would be a good thing. But what happen to Gray shouldn’t impact conscientious Baltimore cops in the slightest. There’s no connection between employing extra-judicial punishment by roughing a suspect up after he’s been arrested and cuffed, and using force to stop a violent person from harming innocent people. To argue that accountability in the former will lead to hesitation in the latter is to argue that we can’t have any accountability for any killing by a police officer, because it may cause other officers to hesitate before shooting people.

We rely on police to keep us from the abyss. But it does not follow that they are unaccountable or that if they truss up a man, throw him in the back of the van and rough ride him around the city until his neck shatters, we should ignore that. To pull back from a city that so desperately needs law and order because of the Freddie Gray indictment or a few nasty words from a mayor is ridiculous. And it illustrates just how badly policing has gone wrong.

Not that there isn’t enough blame to throw the mayor’s way. A competent mayor would be able to condemn the cops who killed Freddie Gray, go forward with the prosecution and still keep the cops on the streets. Balancing the anger of the citizens, the need for reform and temper of the union is the mayor’s job. It’s tough but it’s what they’re elected to do. Even de Blasio’s comments only resulted in cops slowing down “broken windows” arrests. And while murders are up a bit in New York in 2015 (123 through May 28, compared to 107 last year), overall crime is actually down slightly. There has not been nearly the surge in violence we’ve seen in Baltimore. Think about that: Rawlings-Blake is making Bill Fricking de Blasio look competent.