Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A cynic's review of recent crime news

Despite the huge drop in crime, we are experiencing, there seems to be an unending amount of crime news these days. The curmudgeon has some comments:
  • The story about the police horses seems to have taken just about the entire hour of Peter Hermann's time on WYPR yesterday. Um, it didn't really seem a lot like journalism; more like an ode to the wonder of the pretty, beautiful horsies, brave officers on top of them and the wonder of it all. Only one caller had an objection, bravely averring that officers on horseback are too distant and formidable.
  • Well, Buz wonders if the Mounted Unit is subjected to the same sorts of scrutiny which other units are at the now famous Compstat. I mean, it's only a handful of officers, a very small unit, but we just wonder: how many arrests have Mounted officers made in, say, the last year? Tickets? Any? Guns seized?
  • OK: I know, they are a "different" kind of elite unit, sort of like the honor guard, but cost a lot more: food, housing, 24/7 attention, vets, and that's not even counting the special equipment for the riders, and the salary and benefits of the hostlers and riders.
  • Of course, it's the commissioner's department. I would imagine that he has a great deal of discretion when it comes to budget cutting that's needed. So, perhaps if he really wants to keep the unit, he could by giving up something else. I'm not sure "they" out there somewhere could make him give up the unit, as long as he gave up the same amount of money. It's just that one has to be able to justify it under "public relations", or "crowd control capability" or something. But the idea of the public helping fund it is a nice try.
  • I think horse units are nice, they're great if deployed in a coherent mission, but I don't see it here. Anti-drug? Crowd Control ? (at night, too?) Traffic? Anti-crime? Public Relations? Not clear. They are probably capable of any of those things, but have significant downsides: they are not an around the clock, all weather deployment; they have to be rested frequently, and fed; the officer cannot sit there and take your report; he/she will have some difficulty in detaining a suspect who doesn't want to be detained; the horse unit runs high risks operating after dark in heavy motor traffic areas (especially with irresponsible and drunken and texting drivers; the unit is not easily and cost-effectively deployed outside of the downtown riding area (figure about an hour to load and another hour to off-load cutting into your deployment time), et al, etc. In any event, there's only a handful left.
  • The idea of having a nonprofit collect funds for the Mounted Unit is interesting and ironic. It cannot be a one-time thing, as any director of a nonprofit will tell you. If the development director of a nonprofit is unable to raise funds or get grants for ongoing operations, the nonprofit will cease to exist. Few donors want to contribute operating expenses. The irony here is that the former PAL program, when rolled out by Commissioner Frazier, was in fact a 501(c)3 full nonprofit. It was unable to raise enough money by fundraising or grants, and it essentially went out of business, even before it got euthanized this year--even though it initially had grant funding and several business supporters. But if you can't keep the money rolling, you're out of business. It has to be an ongoing thing.
  • Saw the police surveillance video of the SWD shooting of little Raven. The film is so bad, one could argue either way: at times it looks like he's got a monitor on, and other times he doesn't. In any event, the camera is so poor that one cannot recognize the face of the shooter. And this whole business with Juvenile Services and their monitoring is nonsensical.
  • Of course, from a security perspective, it just shows, once again, that cameras do not PREVENT crime in many cases: everyone knew there were cameras up there on that pole, but after a while, miscreants sorta know: they are not working, or monitored, or have such poor quality they won't show, or just aren't looking at me. And, once again, they are often of little value in CAPTURE, if the quality is so bad--unless they are actually being monitored, and have a force available to immediately respond. (like downtown, or institutions with a security force).
  • Loved (?) not right word, but was fascinated by the story of the latest breakdown of police discipline wherein a police sergeant handcuffed a homicide detective during a "dispute". One wonders, with all these bad PR things happening to the city department, if maybe they all should be assigned to the Mounted unit or something. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? Apparently, they have been infected with Aggravated John Wayne Syndrome. This syndrome is giving real, dedicated, decent officers a bad name. Seriously, there's something wrong with this picture. I mean I know policing the city is tough, but............One thing the commissioner needs to do though (perhaps the FOP might agree, but probably not): when an officer is involved in a "strange incident", e.g. silly testimony, silly video watching, crazy accidents, handcuffing people (or each other), taking people for "rides" and dropping them off, visiting a project and getting shot "on your lunch break", being accused of rape, shooting at cars off duty, pointing guns at people off duty, the list goes on, the officer(s) involved need to be taken down to Mercy for a drug test. I know it sounds weird, but the fire department is much more rigorous about this stuff.
  • On the sad death of a woman just driving down the street by the worthless, "erratic" clown fleeing the Regional Auto Theft Task Force: oops, he wasn't fleeing, he was driving because he got scared and saw police. There's almost certainly gonna be a lawsuit here; and if a supervisor ordered the chase to cease, as they say, and it continued (with ANY evidence to that), there's going to be heavy liability for the city or county or whoever.
  • In all the hullabaloo over the umpteen people shot on Ashland, the two young man murdered the same night on Conkling street have received almost no notice--like it didn't even happen. Whassap with that?