- Why Baltimore’s Civilian Review Board hasn’t done much to fix its police crisis [J.F. Meils, Capitol News Service/Maryland Reporter]
- Three prosecutors with high national profiles who’ve put up dogged, maybe too dogged, resistance to actual-innocence claims [Lara Bazelon, Slate]
- Carceral liberalism: Advocates press to do away with statute of limitations for sex assault prosecutions [Scott Greenfield]
- “No charges have been filed against the cops. All of the officers involved are still employed by the department.” [Christina Carrega, New York Daily News on nearly $1 million award to Oliver Wiggins, unsuccessfully framed for DWI after police car ran stop sign and crashed into his vehicle]
- Founding-era views of duty-to-retreat vs. stand-your-ground might be more complicated than you think [Eugene Volokh]
- The trial penalty “is among the most important features of America’s criminal justice system, and yet there is no reference to it in the Constitution” [Clark Neily, Cato]
- Attitudes on law enforcement now function as culture war rallying point and vehicle of identity politics on both sides [Dara Lind] Good news on officer safety: “Line of duty deaths this year approached a 50-year low” [Ed Krayewski]
- SWAT deployment and police militarization — in rural Western Massachusetts [Seth Kershner, Valley Advocate] Trump still wrong on this issue [Eric Boehm]
- Would it be easier to address America’s high rate of fatal shootings by police if the focus were allowed to slip off race for a moment? [Conor Friedersdorf]
- Neighborhood police checkpoints employed in West Baltimore for several days in November, yet in 2009 DC Circuit, via conservative Judge Sentelle, found them unconstitutional [Colin Campbell and Talia Richman, Baltimore Sun; Elizabeth Janney, Patch]
- What should be done to address rising crime rates? Federalist Society convention panel video with Dr. John S. Baker, Jr., Heather Childs, Adam Gelb, Hon. Michael Mukasey, George J. Terwilliger III, moderated by Hon. David Stras;
- In Collins v. Virginia, Supreme Court has opportunity to reaffirm that home is truly castle against police search [Cato Daily Podcast with Jay Schweikert and Caleb Brown]
Act I: In a widely read Nov. 15 piece in Atlas Obscura, Priya Krishna reports on “the quest to save Baltimore’s Berger Cookie,” a beloved local food institution. “One of the most essential ingredients in the Berger Cookie is trans fats. Trans fats are what make the chocolate super creamy, prevent the fat and the water in the dough from separating (which would yield an overly crumbly cookie), and keep the cookie stable in both very warm and very cold settings.” However, the Obama administration enacted a federal ban on trans fats — for your own good, you know — which goes into effect next year.
Cookie producer Charlie DeBaufre, interviewed by Krishna, “refers to the past year as ‘frustrating and scary,’ as so many of his trans fat-free experiments have been failures. ‘I have spent $10,000 trying to get this worked out. I am not a big business. I don’t have an R&D Department. I have to shut down production for a few hours, still pay people for labor, and then most of the product gets trashed. It’s tough.'” More background in a piece I wrote for Cato last week.
Act II: Then a twist, reported by Sarah Meehan in the Baltimore Sun Nov. 21: the fudge supplier had managed to replace trans fats months ago and didn’t tell Berger’s. While early attempts to reformulate fudge frosting without trans fats had suffered from various quality defects, the new recipe was much improved to the point where neither consumers nor Berger’s had noticed.
So a happy if unexpected ending, at least for this one company, right? But the regulatory downside — you just knew there had to be one — was that in changing its recipe the fudge supplier had added more sugar, which appears to have boosted the calorie count and might have changed other things reported in the Nutrition Facts box as well. Since Berger’s says it didn’t know about the new formula, one inference might be that for a while it has been shipping cookies with a faulty calorie/nutrition count on the package. Hello to class action woes and, if the FDA is in a bad mood, regulatory liability?
- Police credibility under oath: “Judge Weinstein takes on testilying” [Scott Greenfield]
- “To resolve lawsuit filed by the DOJ, Seattle police department adopts policy requiring officers to attempt de-escalation (when possible) and use reasonable force to resolve tense situations. (A federal compliance monitor reports that officers’ use of force has since declined significantly without increased crime or injuries to officers.) Police officers: The policy violates our Second Amendment right to self-defense. Ninth Circuit: Novel but no.” [John K. Ross, Short Circuit, summarizing Mahoney v. City of Seattle]
- “The LAPD’s drone pilot threatens privacy despite policy assurances” [Matthew Feeney, Cato]
- Not just Hollywood and high places: sexual assault is “among the most pernicious and likely under-reported varieties of on-duty police misconduct” [Jonathan Blanks]
- “Hundreds Of Cases Dismissed Thanks To Baltimore PD Misconduct” [Tim Cushing]
- Body cameras worth pursuing even though results from Washington, D.C. study don’t show big effect on shootings or complaints [Matthew Feeney, Scott Greenfield]
From Chicago to Baltimore and beyond, don’t assume that consent decrees with higher levels of government (the U.S. Department of Justice included) are the best route to police reform. John McGinnis, Liberty and Law:
Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, has welcomed the lawsuit [by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan] and is looking to acquiesce in a consent decree which will create a new set of rules for the police department and a monitor to enforce them.
This collusive suit is a bad idea. To be sure, the Chicago Police Department needs reform, but this method reduces democratic accountability, imposes unnecessary costs, and most of all runs the risk of letting more people die from uncontrolled crime. And it is very unlikely to do what is most needed: eliminating or reducing the protections against discipline that police enjoy in union contracts or under civil service laws.
For an example of the kind of consent decree that is likely to be agreed upon, look at similar litigation in Baltimore….
…the greatest problem for lawful policing is that police departments have difficulty firing the few bad actors disproportionately responsible for civil rights violations because departments face constraints imposed by union contracts and civil service laws. The Baltimore consent decree does not rewrite these contracts or laws nor it is clear that it would have the power to do so. And I expect no different result in Chicago. Thus, the consent decree may retard the most important kind of police reform by giving a false sense of progress.
Not quite an Overlawyered topic, but: The crazies who defaced the Francis Scott Key statue in Baltimore the other day weren’t just lawless goons — they were wrong about the song too. I explain at National Review.
I might have added countless other examples of songs, poems, and nationalist rhetoric in which “slave” was employed 1) as an epithet, 2) to signify subjection to kingly or other un-republican authority, or 3) both, everywhere from Patrick Henry’s famous speech to Schiller’s Wilhelm Tell to Rule, Britannia! to La Marseillaise. Suffice it to say that the word’s occurrence in a poem — even one penned by a slaveholder — needs to be read in context to determine whether American chattel slavery was the intended reference, and in the case of the third verse of the national anthem, there are plenty of reasons to think it was not.
- “My dad was a cop. He despised the bad guys. But he always told me, ‘we’re the good guys and people should always know the difference.'” [Rep. Eric Swalwell on Twitter, Daniel Dale/Toronto Star on President’s “You can take the hand away, okay?” remarks about handling of suspects in custody; reactions from IACP and rounded up at NYT; related Caroline Linton, CBS News on Suffolk County, N.Y. police department]
- New legislation in Texas, pushed by police unions, authorizes special courts for cops, guards, and first responders who seek to blame misbehavior on job-related mental conditions [Jolie McCullough/Texas Tribune via Radley Balko]
- Providence has bad habit of ticketing drivers over parking practices you’d assume were legal [Susan Campbell/WPRI, Scott Shetler/Quirky Travel Guy, 2011]
- Boston cop to be reinstated with five years’ back pay after nearly choking unarmed man to death; victim, a corrections deputy, had settled with city for $1.4 million [Boston Herald via Jonathan Blanks] Camera saves footage from 30 seconds before activation button pushed: “Baltimore is reviewing 100 cases after video leaks appearing to show police planting drug evidence” [Veronika Bondarenko/Business Insider, Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector/Baltimore Sun] What’s it take for cops to get disciplined, anyway? [Jonathan Blanks on Fort Worth, Tex. whistleblowing case]
- From the Des Moines Boy Police to D.A.R.E.: America’s long history of enlisting kids as cops to watch peers, family [Joshua Reeves, Reason]
- Among the public policy involvements of the Fraternal Order of Police: arguing in the Bank of America housing-disparate-impact case for more bank liability to municipalities over lending practices [Liz Farmer, Governing]
- Fever finally breaks on a bad idea? Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoes Baltimore council $15 wage bill [Eric Boehm] Ohio Gov. John Kasich signs bill preventing localities from setting higher minimum wages than state [Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jon Hyman]
- Minimum wage hikes may cause workers to shift preference among industries by flattening pay differentials that correspond to amenity level [Ryan Bourne, Cato] “San Diego’s new minimum wage already may be killing jobs” [Dan McSwain, San Diego Union-Tribune]
- “Contrary to often asserted statements, the preponderance of the evidence still points toward a negative impact of permanently high minimum wages.” [Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, University of Pennsylvania, via Jeffrey Miron, Cato]
- Allegation: timekeeping software used by employers defeats wage and hour regulation [Elizabeth Tippett, Charlotte Alexander, and Zev Eigen, Yale Journal of Law and Technology via Workplace Prof]
- Women’s attitudes on gender pay gap vary greatly depending on whether they are asked about society in general, or their own workplace [Emily Ekins]
- Dark side of Progressive Era: advocates backed minimum wage precisely in order to remove lowest skilled workers from productive economy [Emily Skarbek and Amy Willis, EconLog, citing Thomas C. Leonard, Journal of Economic Perspectives] Motivation of squeezing out immigrants has not gone away [David D’Amato on Twitter]
There’s much that needs reforming about the Baltimore police department, but the collusive sweetheart agreement between two lame duck administrations, transferring power over department practices to outside activists and the usual monitor setup, has a great deal wrong with it. George Liebmann of the Calvert Institute, who has been critical of the settlement, wrote up his objections in a lengthy communication to the court, excerpted at Free State Notes.
More from Tim Lynch at Cato on the DoJ’s changing posture:
…Sessions is making a grave mistake if he thinks previous DOJ investigations did not uncover severe problems in American policing. The problems are there. The real question is how to address them. In the education area, teacher unions are the main obstacles to reform. Police unions are the major obstacle to sensible accountability measures for police organizations. But over the long run, local mayors and city councils must make a sustained commitment to proper oversight of police. It is unrealistic to expect the Attorney General or a federal monitor to do their jobs.