Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Eric Garner: Citizen or skell?

Some quality-of-life crimes just aren’t worth enforcing

Monday, July 21, 2014, 8:00 PM
A needless death 
New York Daily News A needless death
"I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
Watching the brutal video of the police bringing down Eric Garner, never to get up again, I though about Mo and his cousins at the Ditmas Park bodega I bought my loosies from for years. They’re part of the neighborhood, keeping an eye on the street and watching out for their neighbors. They don’t sell to strangers, to avoid fines or losing their license to sell smokes, but they don’t worry about getting arrested, let alone killed.
It’s a permanent tension, that in rightly focusing their efforts where crime is highest, police can easily make criminals of the people they’re charged with protecting, and upping the opportunities for the sort of ugly encounters that leave scars, or worse.
Garner, who had a lengthy record for selling loosies and other petty things, was someone who the cops and EMTs Thursday plainly saw as a skell — even as the people from his neighborhood now mourning him describe someone very different, a good-natured father of six who, like Mo, helped break up fights and keep an eye on his street.
When Mayor de Blasio brought Bill Bratton back to serve a second stint as police commissioner, he gave a double mandate: keep crime down to its current record low, and give a peace dividend to the people in high-crime neighborhoods after a decade in which over-reliance on stops and frisks left too many decent citizens in dangerous neighborhoods resentful of the police.
It remains to be seen if those are compatible goals. With the number of stops having plummeted, Bratton has relied, as he did in his first stint as commissioner under Rudy Giuliani, on broken windows policing — the idea that going after small crimes or signs of disorder helps stop larger ones.
When Bratton first took the job, in 1994, there had been 2,420 murders the previous year. Last year, there were 333. Some things that couldn’t be overlooked back then perhaps should be now.
But so far Bratton, as Kelly did before him, has pressed cops to keep the pressure up and the numbers down. With less serious crime, that means a lot of interactions between police officers and people who’ve done nothing much, or nothing at all, wrong.
To enforce the law on our behalf, we empower the police to use force and, no matter how well trained they are, every encounter has a chance of going wrong.
It’s crucial police are focused on laws that matter, and enforcing them fairly. But right now, there’s a “common sense” standard about who and what warrants police attention, with all the potential for violence, arrests and more that brings.
Open-air drinking isn’t allowed, but no one thinks twice about uncorking wine at Bryant Park movie nights. As I wrote about pot last week, the same thing can’t be a crime in East Flatbush, but okay in Ditmas Park, or for a black kid but not his white pal.
If Bratton really wants to bring the temperature down, he may need to simply have police make fewer arrests for small things, and find other ways to ensure his officers remain active in dealing with real crimes. That is, treat people in every park like they’re in Bryant Park.
And the truth is that if that happens, crime is likely to go up some — and this newspaper and many New Yorkers will bitterly protest any upward tick, as will the victims of those crimes.
But I don’t want New York to be Singapore, where people get caned for spitting gum on the sidewalk, any more than I want it to go back to the murder peak of the late 1980s. That it must be one or the other is, obviously, a false choice.
Yes, many of the advocates now calling for Bratton’s head are reflexive critics of all policing. But the commissioner and mayor need to decide how much enforcement they want, for how much crime.
There’s a point at which aggressive policing makes criminals of people for committing harmless acts — drinking in a park, say, or smoking a joint on their stoop or even just jaywalking.
Cops and civilians engage in millions of encounters a year, each with a small chance of going wrong. How many don’t may be underappreciated. But every needless one risks another Garner. And with every phone a camera now, there’s no hiding the violence when it happens.
As George Kelling, the co-author of the original broken windows article and a consultant to Bratton, told me last week, the point of quality-of-life enforcement was never to criminalize people, but to keep order and shift behavior: “We were never interested in a mounting number of arrests.” That’s right.
“Many people that own stores sell illegal cigarettes,” said Ellisha Flagg , Garner’s sister. “They lose their license, not their lives.”
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Big City

City Politics Abhors a Vacation

Officeholders, like Mayor Bill de Blasio, are in the difficult position of having to showcase family devotion, only to face scrutiny when they honor the obligations of parenthoo
Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome on Sunday with his family at the start of their vacation.
Michael Grynbaum/The New York Times
Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome on Sunday with his family at the start of their vacation.
An unshaven Bill de Blasio, along with his family, emerged from the airport in Rome on Sunday to face reporters and gawking Italians eager for a selfie with the New York City mayor.

Victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Among the 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were a renowned AIDS researcher, a Dutch senator and an Australian novelist.

Document: Airline Releases List of Passengers

Thursday, July 17, 2014

De Blasio Takes a Vacation, and a Calculated Risk

Mayor Bill de Blasio is gambling that residents will be sympathetic to his need for time off and that no major crisis will occur during his absence.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Suit Seeks to Establish Right to Record New York Police Officers

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks to bar city employees from retaliating against those who tape them in public.

Church Founded in Sixth Century Has More Modern Views on Women Than Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. (photo: unknown)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. (photo: unknown)
By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
15 July 14

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

he Church of England, an institution whose origins date back to the sixth century A.D., has far more modern views about the rights of women than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, experts said today.
“In recognizing that women are the equals of men, the Church of England has embraced a position that is centuries ahead of Scalia’s,” Davis Logsdon, a professor of religion at the University of Minnesota, said. “This is a remarkable achievement, given that Scalia was born in 1936 and the Church began in the late five hundreds.”
But Dr. Carol Foyler, a history professor at the University of Sussex, took issue with that assessment. “I date the beginning of the Church of England to 1534, when it was officially established under Henry VIII,” she said. “But regardless of whether the Church is fourteen centuries old or five centuries old, it’s unquestionably more modern than Scalia.”
As for Justice Scalia, he seemed to dismiss the controversy, issuing a terse official statement Monday afternoon. “I do not keep up with the goings on of every newfangled institution,” he said.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Documents Show G.M. Kept Silent on Fatal Crashes

When asked by federal regulators to explain deadly crashes, General Motors repeatedly said it had no answers — despite having reached internal conclusions on the causes.

Sight of Rick Perry at Border Convinces Immigrants That Anyone Can Succeed in America

= (photo: The New Yorker)
Rick Perry and Sean Hannity in a boat. (photo: The New Yorker)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
14 July 14
The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

recent tour of the United States-Mexico border by Texas Governor Rick Perry has had the unintended consequence of convincing thousands of immigrants that anyone can succeed in America.
After Gov. Perry and the Fox News host Sean Hannity toured the Rio Grande on Thursday, news quickly spread that the two men were actually among the most powerful in America, fueling the immigrants’ impression that the U.S. is a place where anyone can make it.
“When we learned that these two men were the governor of a large state and a top broadcaster from a major news network, it seemed too incredible to be true,” said an immigrant from Honduras, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We all said to ourselves, if those two can succeed in America, imagine the wondrous things we might achieve.”
According to a border official, immigration at the border shot up eighty per cent since the appearance by the two men, and the situation could get even worse. “There’s a rumor that Rand Paul plans to visit,” the official said.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Top News

When a Student Came Forward: Inside a College Rape Inquiry

A freshman said she was sexually assaulted by football players at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The school’s investigation, which swiftly cleared the men, left her wishing she had remained silent.

The woman at Hobart and William Smith is no exception. With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.
One panelist did not appear to know what a rape exam entails or why it might be unpleasant. Another asked whether the football player’s penis had been “inside of you” or had he been “having sex with you.”
(A note from the Editor of The Freepress.blogspot.com: as a Hobart graduated Class of1970, I am ashamed of the way the Hobart & William Smith colleges handled this case. My heart is with Anna).

Rafael Martínez Alequín (Hobart 1970)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

More City Hall Change: A Mayor Taking a Break

The mayor and his family will take a nearly 10-day tour of Italy this month, the longest out-of-town trip by a New York City mayor in more than 25 years.

The last mayor to routinely take extended trips to Europe was Edward I. Koch, who in the 1980s journeyed to Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain and other destinations during his second and third terms.
Mr. Giuliani rarely took a day off in his first years in office, although he indulged in some weekend jaunts to the Hamptons, trips that became more frequent as his final term neared its end.