Police and community roundup

  • “As Ferguson waits, some lessons from the Rodney King riots” [Radley Balko] “ACLU wins federal court orders on right to video police in Ferguson, elsewhere” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
  • “What charges could the Michael Brown grand jury consider, if they choose to indict?” [Paul Cassell, Volokh; related on Missouri jury instructions regarding deadly force by police, Robert VerBruggen/Real Clear Policy]
  • Quick links: things this site has published on Ferguson, on police militarization, on police issues generally;
  • Interview with University of Illinois lawprof Andrew Leipold on grand jury process [U of I] A reminder about the surprisingly high error rates of eyewitness testimony [Balko]
  • “Judges propose wide reform of St. Louis County’s municipal courts” [StL; related, holiday warrant forgiveness] Municipal court fines and fees: “Why we need to fix St. Louis County” [Radley Balko, related (Better Together report), earlier here, here from Balko, etc.]
  • “The hurdles for indicting or convicting a uniformed officer are high, for many reasons.” Survey of police deadly force issue [L.A. Times] Police forces have strayed far from the “Peel Principles” for which London police were so admired [Tuccille, Reason]
  • Not much. “Whatever Happened To The White House Police Militarization Review?” [Evan McMorris-Santoro, BuzzFeed]


  • While most of these complaints seem valid, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to object to the practice of hearing cases in which the defendant has a lawyer first (Balko). Many courts do this, because it saves defendants from having to pay their lawyers for waiting around for hours. If you wanted to reduce the number of defendants who are represented, it would be hard to find a better way than to make court appearances even more expensive for those defendants.

  • RE: Peel Principles. The issue with that notion is that “discretion” usually ends up being “racism”. Or, at least, racism is claimed, and there is no positive defense against racism other than “I was following the rules to the letter”. You can talk until you are, as it were, blue in the face about community outreach and proportionate response and officer-level empowerment to deescalate situations, and there’s always going to be someone who says “yeah, but you wouldn’t have arrested a white dude, you wouldn’t have hassled a white dude.”

  • It seems to me that threatening violence if a Grand Jury makes a particular decision should be against the law. No juror should feel threatened when making a determination.

  • Radley Balko offers the San Diego PD’s handling of the 1992 Rodney King crisis as a model for Ferguson and St. Louis police to follow. The San Diego police were able to steer protests in a peaceful direction by joining them: “Yes, those Los Angeles police are real swine (but we don’t behave like them anymore).” The metro St. Louis police might have more trouble getting contol of events by saying, “Yes, we are real swine.”

    When possible, however, cooptation has advantages. The Occupy summer went peacefully in Boston Massachusetts: City Hall echoed much of their political message, and police quickly developed contacts with encampment leaders, even hooking them up with utilities and electricity. when it was finally time to fold things up, only some gentle nudging (eg cutting off the electricity) was needed.