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The War on Cops: Blame the Courts, Not the Police.

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It is not yet August, and 94 police officers have been killed in the line of duty this year, 87 by the mid-year mark (June 30), and seven more in July.  That’s an increase of 43% since 2009.  But another fact emerging from the statistics is even more chilling: gun killings of officers have more than doubled in the last twenty-four months, rising 22% in 2008 – 2009, and a staggering 41% in 2009 – 2010.

That is an increase of 63% in just two years.

Those numbers are only fatalities.  Attempted murders — including nonfatal gunshots, stabbings, attacks with vehicles, and other aggravated assaults — aren’t counted.  In Tampa Bay, where I live, four police officers were actually shot last month, in two separate incidents in the last week of June.  Two officers survived serious gunshot wounds.  Two others, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, did not.  Kocab’s wife, Sara, who was nine months pregnant with their first child when her husband was gunned down, delivered a stillborn baby a few days ago.

Then she got up the next day and went from the hospital to court to face her husband’s killer:

Profile in Courage: Sara Kocab (on the right) in Court

Over the weekend, Chicago buried the third cop ambushed in that city in recent weeks. Also over the weekend, a policeman was shot dead in Detroit, bringing the year’s total there to three.  Warnings have appeared in the Chicago media alleging that more cops will be targeted.  This is especially troubling because all the recently murdered officers were felled in surprise attacks.

Just days after [Michael] Bailey’s death, there is a new warning. The police department has acknowledged that both District 3 and District 6 in Chatham, near Officer Bailey’s home, have received phone call threats against its officers. Text messages containing the gist of the threat and a warning have been circulating among officers there.  “More police officers will be shot&gang bangers in the area are passing the word&every night they will be ambushing police in the Chatham area. Please pass along this info and please be safe,” reads one of the text messages.

Imagine the response if “gang bangers” were targeting anyone other than police.  We have come to expect this and even accept it.  The nation’s top Justice Department official, Eric Holder, has said nothing about the slaughter of cops (he is, after all, a man with a history of pushing clemency for cop killers).  The President, who singled out individual police for public excoriation, somehow can’t seem to find the time to recognize these officers’ sacrifices, even when the murdered police hailed from his own hometown and lived lives steeped in the community volunteerism the President claims to value.

Other than covering crime scenes and funerals, the media has remained almost entirely silent about the war on cops — except when they’re pointing fingers at the police.  But what’s really driving this war?  Even the most cursory survey of cop killings offers a single, extremely obvious answer: courtroom-bred, free-range, grudge-bearing recidivism.  A culture of excessively lenient sentencing emboldens thugs and is papered over by opinion-makers who wouldn’t dream of criticizing the sentencing judges or even the “gang bangers” themselves.

After all, newspaper columnists and reporters wouldn’t want to lose their all-important insider status.  Invitations dry up when you ask the wrong questions, and who wants to blame poor youth when there’s a cop, any cop at all, to finger?

So, at best, you get schizophrenic reporting, like this seemingly promising article by the Chicago Sun-Times.   The reporters flirt with a few facts but end up defaulting to a blame the cops mantra:

This is the story of why they won’t stop shooting in Chicago.  It’s told by the wounded, the accused and the officers [not so much by the officers] who were on the street during a weekend in April 2008 when 40 people were shot, seven fatally.  Two years later, the grim reality is this: Nearly all of the shooters from that weekend have escaped charges. “You don’t go to jail for shooting people,” says Dontae Gamble, who took six bullets that weekend, only to see his alleged shooter walk free.  “That’s why m————- think they can get back on the streets and kill again. You feel me?”

OK, Dontae, so there are no consequences for shooting people.  Who do we blame for this?

So far, not one accused shooter has been convicted of pulling the trigger during those deadly 59 hours from April 18-20 of that year, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.  Only one suspected triggerman — a convicted armed robber caught with the AK-47 he allegedly used to blow away his boss — is in jail awaiting trial.

And why is that?  Why does it take two+ years to bring an accused killer to trial?  Might there be something wrong with the courts?

Oh goodness, no.  That couldn’t be. Or if there were, reporters couldn’t possibly investigate, because then they might not get invited to boozy lunches with important lawyers and politicians and judges.

It must be the police’s fault.  Cue, curtain left:

The Chicago Police Department’s batting average for catching shooters has fallen to an alarmingly low level. Detectives cleared 18 percent of the 1,812 non-fatal shootings last year. They were slightly better in catching killers — 30 percent of murders were cleared in 2009.  But here’s the catch: When police “clear” a case, that doesn’t always mean a suspect got convicted — or even charged.  Sometimes police seek charges against a suspect, but the state’s attorney won’t prosecute without more evidence. Other times, the shooter is dead, or the victim refuses to testify after identifying the shooter. Cops call those “exceptional” clearances.

Except . . . it’s not “cops” who make up this lingo, or this accounting system, or these statistics.  It’s not as if your front-line street cop wakes up in the morning and says, hey, here’s how I’m gonna enforce the law today.  Police brass and other political appointees, D.A.s, judges: they’re the ones who make the decisions.

But the Sun-Times reporters make it sound as if the only people with any agency, or any responsibility, in the entire justice system are the street cops.

This is the way the vast majority of reporters report crime: they simply don’t bother to look behind things like failed clearance numbers and ask why it’s so hard to satisfy the current status quo for removing known, armed, violent, recidivist felons from the streets.

They don’t bother to ask why evidence that would have sufficed for a conviction twenty years ago isn’t good enough today, or why prosecutors don’t try to bring every charge possible against known, dangerous offenders.  Reporters certainly don’t go to the guy in the black robe and ask why that convicted armed robber who “blew away his boss” with an AK-47 was out on the streets in the first place.

That type of question is considered off-limits, whereas no question about even the greenest police recruit is off-limits.

How many times do judges even have to say no-comment?  You don’t have to not comment if you don’t get asked anything in the first place.

Better to just criticize police.

The Sun-Times story continues with one “gang banger” shooting another “gang banger” who claims he’s too afraid to testify but isn’t too afraid to try to get money out of the government’s victim compensation fund.  Next, the reporter spends an inordinate amount of time following the victim around town as he pontificates against the police while bragging that he has forgiven (and refused to testify against) the thug who shot him.  After recovering from his wounds (doubtlessly on the public dime), then wasting months of police and courtroom resources, Willie Brown changed his testimony but suffered no consequences:

‘I could be Willie the Rat, but I don’t care about s— like that,” Willie Brown said while rolling a joint near Sheridan and Wilson in the Uptown neighborhood.  Brown is 28. He lives in a run-down high-rise and walks with a limp because he got shot in the leg.  He said he was a bad kid, a teenage Vice Lord and stickup man who did prison time for robbing a corner store with a toy pistol in 2003 while high on weed and angel dust. He had the munchies that day and was looking to steal “wam wams and zoom zooms” — prison talk for snacks — when a police officer saw the gun poking from Brown’s waistband and arrested him. He was paroled in 2007.

Did the reporter even bother to check Brown’s real record?  His arrest record?  Just took his word for it?

On April 18, 2008, Brown took a bullet in his upper right thigh outside 1012 W. Sunnyside. He was the 10th person to get shot on that bloody April 2008 weekend.  “That was a horrific moment,” Brown said.  He says he saw the guy who shot him.  Heck, he even talked to the alleged shooter, Darnell Robinson.  Brown was on his way to buy beer about 11:30 p.m. that Friday when Robinson and his brother stopped him in the street.  Robinson supposedly asked, “What is you?” — street slang for “What gang are you in?”  Brown said he told them about his past Vice Lords affiliation.  Robinson said he was in the “Taliban” before he started shooting, according to Brown.

Nice.  Every Chicago cop’s spouse knows that this is what their husband or wife is walking into, every day.

Police arrested Robinson, who was 31 at the time and had been behind bars for residential burglary and selling drugs. Brown identified Robinson as the shooter, and the case headed for a trial.  Robinson, who claimed he was innocent in jailhouse interviews with the Sun-Times, sat in Cook County jail for 13 months until prosecutors had to let him go because Brown changed his story several times.  Why did Brown’s story change? Because “my momma told me to,” he said.  “I did it so he could go home. I’m not no stool pigeon,” Brown said, recounting his story while scarfing down McNuggets at a McDonald’s in Uptown.  “I don’t have anything against him — it’s like he never shot me. I wouldn’t want to see the m———– sitting in jail because that [jail] is hell. I spared that dude. That’s all I did. I did it for my mom.”

How touching.  Our tax dollars support this behavior from beginning, to middle, to violent, bloody end.  This is how cops and other innocent people end up getting shot on the streets.  How about interviewing the judge or parole board officer who let Robinson go free the last time?  Brown?  How about reviewing their real records, step by expensive, bloody step through the courts?

But at least Brown screwed the system “for his mom.”  I wonder if Hallmark makes cards for that.

Brown said he sometimes bumps into Robinson on the street.  “I talked to the guy. He said he was sorry. I said, ‘Forget about it. Don’t worry about it.’ . . . I feel like I should have forgiven [him] for they know not what they do. He needs to be happy and thank God like I did. Everybody should go by that code.”  And in that moment — as Brown talked about forgiveness as his brand of nonviolent street justice — Robinson walked into the McDonald’s with two friends.  “There he is. That’s him right there!” Brown said.  The accused shooter and the victim awkwardly shook hands and hugged — each assuring the other, “We cool.”  Robinson nervously asked if reporters at the table were police officers. Robinson said repeatedly that he didn’t shoot Brown, but he wouldn’t talk more about it unless he was paid $30. Then he disappeared down Wilson Avenue, heading east toward the lake.  Brown said he and Robinson have a simple understanding: “Don’t f— with me. I won’t f— with you.”

Yes, until the next time.  Why didn’t the prosecutor go ahead with the trial anyway?  The public is sick of this.  Or throw Brown in jail alongside Robinson, for lying and changing his story, for false accusations?  How about making Brown pay for his hospital bills if he won’t cooperate with the prosecution?  Would anything short of zero tolerance guarantee that either of these felonious buffoons will live to old age, or at least not kill anyone besides themselves?  And: “forgiveness [is] his brand of nonviolent street justice”???

Among all the prayers this tableau summons, one can only pray that the reporter was attempting irony.

The newspaper article ends with another drug dealer (this one shot, self-admittedly, in a “deal gone bad”) who complains that the cops didn’t do a good enough job investigating his case (though it is a judge who dismisses the charges).  Funny how even the worst thugs know which side of the bread is buttered and kiss up to judges.

So, in the final analysis, courtroom failures don’t exist and the police are responsible for snitching, for the culture of no-snitching, for the lack of evidence, for the rejection of evidence, for being too tough, for being too weak, for responding to crimes, for not responding . . . for merely existing while some thug sits in McDonald’s stuffing his face, pontificating his views on police performance at a reporter who is hopefully just pretending to hang on his every word:

[Repeat felon and shooting victim Dontae] Gamble also said authorities should have done a better job of investigating, putting together a stronger case and getting their facts straight since a judge might not believe a guy like him.

This would be laughable if police weren’t dying.

It’s too bad the Sun-Times reporters spent all their time eliciting opinions from people like Dontae Gamble and Willie Brown instead of focusing on the one striking fact buried amidst all the street-gang high-fives and sentimentalist clap-trap, because this fact explains entirely why police are dying on Chicago’s streets and elsewhere.  It should have been the starting point for the article they should have written:

Shooting victims in Chicago are almost as likely to have a long rap sheet as the shooters. In 2008, 72 percent of murder victims and 91 percent of accused killers had arrest histories, according to police statistics.

Long rap sheets.  Recidivists all.  If 91% of accused killers in Chicago have long arrest histories, it is not the police who are to blame for their presence on the streets: it is the courts and corrections systems that repeatedly cut them breaks and cut them loose.  The recent killer of two police in Tampa had a long rap sheet, as did the man who shot the two other officers who survived, as did the man who shot another Tampa cop last year, as did all the known cop killers in Chicago, and Detroit, and in Oakland and Seattle and L.A.  And so on and on and on.

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The media may have dropped the ball on the war on cops, but thanks to the internet there are other sources of information from police themselves and police-turned-bloggers.  This article, by Dave Smith at PoliceOne blog is worth a thousand afternoons with the likes of Dontae Gamble.  And this column, by Chicago Sun Times columnist Michael Sneed, counters several ill-times, ham-handed screeds by Sneed’s anti-cop colleagues at the paper.

Connect the Dots: Killing Cops, Cutting Felons Loose

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All the news is bad this Monday.  On Saturday, the AP reported:

Police Officer Gun Deaths Up

The number of officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire increased 24 percent from 2008, according to preliminary statistics compiled by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a national nonprofit organization that tracks officer-related deaths.

As of Saturday, 47 police officers have died nationwide this year after being shot while on duty, up from 38 for the same time in 2008, which was the lowest number of gunfire deaths since 1956, according to the data.

Make that 48 dead, or an increase of 26% over last year, as of Sunday, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.  Captain Dennis Darrell Cagle of the Henderson, Tenn. Police Department died Sunday, a few days after being shot while responding to an armed robbery in a grocery store.

photo R.I.P. Captain Dennis Darrell Cagle

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Meanwhile, in seemingly “unrelated” news, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has been secretly and not-so-secretly releasing inmates even earlier than they were being released before, which was already early compared to the sentences they received.

If this trend continues, we are going to be freeing people from prison even before they commit crimes.

Oh, wait, we do that already.  Governor Quinn’s going to have to invent double time travel next:

Records obtained and analyzed by the AP show that since September more than 850 inmates have been released weeks earlier than they ordinarily would be. The Corrections Department is saving money by abandoning a policy that requires inmates to serve at least 61 days and awarding them discretionary good-conduct credit immediately upon entering prison.  That means some prisoners have enough good-conduct days to qualify for release almost immediately — before they’ve had a chance to demonstrate any conduct at all, good or bad. The inmates are kept at the department’s prison processing centers and released after as few as 11 days. . . The unpublicized practice is called “MGT Push,” for “meritorious good time,” according to a memo obtained by the AP.

So, what entitles a felon to Meritorious Good Time?  Just being the ineffable offenders that they are, apparently:

Jorge Bogas spent just 18 days behind bars for aggravated driving under the influence after he hit two cars, hospitalizing one motorist for weeks, while driving the wrong direction on Interstate 57. Bogas sat five days in Cook County Jail, was transferred to the processing center at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet and released 13 days later.

James Walker-Bey, sentenced to a year for violating probation for carrying a .25 caliber pistol in Alsip, was confined for just over two weeks — three days in Cook County and 14 at Stateville prison.

And Antoine Garrett, previously convicted of armed robbery and illegal firearms possession by a felon, got a one-year sentence after Chicago police saw him drop a bag of cocaine on the street as they approached, but spent just 21 days locked up.

One year for dropping a bag of cocaine?  Doesn’t that seem a bit extreme?  Not if you consider that Garrett was still supposed to be serving time for a 1992 armed robbery when he was out committing another felony gun crime in 2001.  In the absurdist argot that pretends criminals are “paying their debt to society” by serving time, Antoine Garrett still owes us for the crime before last, let alone the last one.

Garrett’s also got one of those ridiculous little teardrops tattooed on his face: doesn’t that mean that he’s proud (teary proud?) of having killed someone?

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What does it say about our justice system that the Governor of Illinois secretly decided to release many hundreds of offenders early, while publicly claiming he is being tougher on offenders, and, simultaneously, announcing the early release of 1,000 other offenders?  A meritorious good time for the criminals, and bad times ahead for citizens and the police:

“MGT Push” has included more than 100 people convicted of potentially violent crimes, including aggravated and domestic battery, battering and assaulting police officers, aggravated robbery and reckless firearms discharge, the AP’s analysis shows. That’s not counting the prisoners serving time for nonviolent offenses who committed more serious crimes in the past, including murder.

Nine people were released Dec. 3, the same day that Quinn signed a law requiring prison time for gang members caught with guns.

The day before, Corrections sent home 20 others, including a man convicted of domestic battery who was confined for 19 days and a man who had spent a total of 20 days locked up for carrying a concealed weapon, records show.

Just in time for the holidays, domestic batterers, drunk drivers, and all.  The Chicago Sun-Times reported this story yesterday morning.  By evening, the Chicago Tribune was reporting that Governor Quinn was rescinding the secret program his spokesperson had denied the existence of earlier in the day.  After only some 850 cut loose.

Yesterday morning, the Sun-Times took the time to explain how prison sentences are getting disappeared in Illinois.  That is, one of the many ways:

Here’s how someone sentenced to a year in prison could be released after just a week or two:

– The law automatically waives half his sentence, cutting time in prison to just six months

– The Corrections Department also can grant six months of good-conduct time (based on conduct in prison, not county jail) for all but the most serious offenses. Theoretically, that could reduce time in prison to zero. Corrections maintains that historically, nearly all inmates eligible for good time get the full amount.

– In the past, the department had a policy — unwritten, according to Sandy Funk of the agency’s transfer coordinator’s office — of requiring inmates to serve at least 61 days before collecting any of that good-time credit. With that requirement gone, prisoners can be released after department processes them.

And what does it say about our justice system when a guy with a big advertisement that he has murdered a man literally tattooed on his face gets released for Meritorious Good Time 21 days into a year-long sentence when he is actually supposed to still be serving time for previous gun crimes?

I think it says this:

It doesn’t matter if you point a gun at a store clerk’s head and threaten to pull the trigger, scarring her for life.  It doesn’t matter if you pistol-whip a rival gang member into intensive care, leaving the taxpayers with a hundred grand in hospital bills and lifetime disability payments to support some worthless thug.  It doesn’t matter if you shoot at a cop who is trying to stop you from robbing a grocery store, at least so long as the cop survives, unlike Captain Dennis Darrell Cagle.  No matter what you do, no matter what you cost society in human lives and money, some politician is going to let you walk.