Trump’s Decision to Give Cops Military Equipment Means Absolutely Nothing.

In his quest to make American great again, Donald Trump seems convinced that reducing crime should be at the top of the list. The fact that the murder rate is back down to where it was when Eisenhower was President and other categories of violent crime are less than half of what they were during the Reagan presidency doesn’t seem to matter in the Oval Office. Crime control has always been a big seller for Republicans, and law and order in places other than the Oval Office can always roll up the votes.

swat             In keeping with his pledge to be a crime-fighter without peer, Trump has just announced that he is ending the ban on sales of military equipment to the police, a practice that was curbed by Obama after the shooting in Ferguson of Michael Brown. The transfer of military equipment from the military to the police was actually started by Clinton back in 1996 in a program known as 1033, which allowed police agencies to grab surplus military equipment no longer being deployed for our troops.

According to the Defense Logistics Agency, more than $6 billion worth of vehicles, clothing, office supplies, tools, rescue equipment and weapons have been turned over from the men and women in camo to the men and women in blue, and more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies are enrolled in the program and can get their hands on equipment which the military no longer wants or needs.

When the cops squared off against the protestors in Ferguson, some of the officers were dressed in riot gear, others looked like they had just come from the set of the 1975 television series S.W.A.T. and still others were indistinguishable from National Guard troops that were called out to try and quell the riot which broke out after Brown’s death. When CNN ran a story about how National Guard commanders referred to the rioters as ‘enemy forces,’ Obama reacted by issuing restrictions against further militarizing of the police and shut down the 1033 transfers of gear.

Note incidentally, the use of the word ‘transfer’ as regards how the cops got their hands on this equipment, rather than using the words ‘purchase’ or ‘buy.’ The whole point of this program was to relieve local governments of some of the costs of outfitting their law enforcement agencies, even if what they were getting for free they would never have purchased anyway. The program has shifted ownership of a few HUMVEEs and other ‘tactical’ vehicles, but remember, these are ‘surplus’ items, which means they are too old or too beaten up to be used by the military any more. In other words, most of the equipment which has been provided through this program is the same moth-eaten clothing junk sitting in the Army-Navy store on Canal Street in downtown Manhattan.

Here’s the quote from the White House which sums it all up. Trump’s order “sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and make officers more effective.” In fact, none of this equipment has been shown to do anything except reduce police budgets, but when all is said and done, this Administration’s crime-fighting strategy is basically a mixture of letting Joe Arpaio off the hook for breaking the law and making stupid jokes about slamming the heads of suspects as they are pushed into the back of a squad car.

Trump’s order has provoked the usual complaints about how police should be community guardians, not community warriors. But the violence in Charlottesville might have been avoided if the cops, who were all decked out in riot gear, had actually stayed around instead of going home. The decision to reinstate the 1033 program is nothing more than Trump pandering to his dwindling base. Police gain the people’s trust by how they behave, not how they are dressed.

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The Washington Post Does A Story About Gun Violence And Gets It Wrong Again.

This is not a column that I am going to enjoy writing but what follows still needs to be said. And although I am going to appear to be very critical of law enforcement in the commentary that follows, please take my word for it when I say that I am extremely pro-cop.  And the reason I am very supportive of the men and women in blue is that I have witnessed on numerous occasions their willingness to be the first ones who rush into a location when God knows what is behind that closed door.  But nevertheless I still believe that what follows needs to be said.

postActually, I’m not going to be critical of law enforcement so much as I am going to say some pretty unkind words about a long article about police shootings that has just appeared in The Washington Post. The article claims to be a very detailed study of almost 1,000 police shootings that have occurred this year.  Turns out that the FBI’s annual report on what they call justifiable law enforcement shootings is like everything else that is published in the UCR, namely, a best-guess estimate based on what local law enforcement wants to report (or not report) to their federal friends in DC.  But the fact that the given by the Post is twice as high as what we get each year from the FBI makes me wonder about the credibility of any crime data published in the UCR.

Be that as it may, the very first headline of the Post’s story is that only 4% of all police killings resulted in the deaths of “unarmed” Black men shot by White cops.  The Post should be ashamed of itself for writing something so basically divisive, stupid, and in terms of its implication, simply wrong.  Because the report immediately linked this number to the protests that have sprung up about cops shooting blacks in many communities, the most notable of course being the shooting of Michael Brown. The report then goes on to say that although Black men represent only 6% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 40% of the unarmed men shot to death by the cops in 2015.  So the takeaway from all of this is that if there’s a racial problem in the issue of police homicides, it’s not so much that cops shoot unarmed Blacks so much as there is a disparity between Black males as a percentage of the overall population and the numbers of ‘armed’ Black men who are shot dead.

There’s only one little problem with this analysis and it makes me wonder whether the staff that created this report for the Post even took the trouble to look at the data on which the report is based.  Because when I started to read the details of the actual shootings themselves, what jumped out at me was the extent to which the definitions of what constitutes ‘armed’ versus ‘unarmed’ victims, Black or White, doesn’t add up to the same thing at all.

There were, according to the article, 70 police homicides in December, of which the victim in 47 cases had a gun.  There were also 15 shootings in which the victim had a knife and 9 instances in which the victim wielded some other kind of weapon, including a baseball bat, a “metal stick” and a brick.  Now don’t get me wrong.  If someone came at me with a brick I would certainly feel that I was being threatened with serious bodily harm.  But in fact the victim threw the brick at an officer, he didn’t actually hit him with anything at all.

Again, I’m not in any way attempting to impugn the dedication and hard work of our men and women in blue.  If anything, my concern here is with the obvious attempt by The Post to create a sensational story out of some buts of thin air.  But when it comes to stories involving guns, The Post usually gets it wrong.

The ‘Show Me’ State Won’t Show Anyone Anything With Its New Gun Law

Nobody really knows how Missouri got the nickname the “show me state,” but what we do know is that under a new gun law passed last week, Missouri residents will be able to walk around openly showing their guns.  And what we further know is that this law drops the CCW age requirement from 21 to 19 and allows local school districts to grant CCW privileges to teachers whose job will be to protect everyone else in the school from all those bad guys carrying guns.

The intent of this new law obviously is to make Missourians more safe because lowering the CCW age to 19 will qualify more people to walk around armed and letting teachers bring concealed weapons into schools will also protect the children and other teachers when a bad guy with a gun comes into the school.  In other words, the new law supports a favorite theory of the NRA which can be summed up as “more guns equals less guns.”  Oops, what we mean is more guns carried around by the “good guys” means less guns carried around by the “bad guys.”

The last time Missouri made it easier for its citizens to arm themselves was in 2007 when the Legislature abolished a law which required that people wishing to buy handguns first had to go to the police department and get a permit-to-purchase (PTP,) in order to take possession of the gun.  To show you how successful this measure was in helping good-guy Missourians use guns to protect themselves from bad-guy Missourians, the gun homicide rate over the next three years jumped by almost 25%, even though the non-gun homicide rate remained about the same.

pink gun                Of all 50 states, only Louisiana currently has a higher gun homicide rate than Missouri, and while the overall violent crime rate in Missouri has declined by about 20% between 2007 and 2012, the homicide rate has remained remarkably stable and remarkably high, a testament no doubt to the Legislature’s uncanny ability to understand how making it easier for everyone to acquire handguns would lead to a safer and more secure place to live.  Having seen the positive impact of easier handgun access on gun homicide rates, the Legislature in its wisdom now believes that it will move the gospel of ‘good guys with guns protecting us from bad guys with guns’ into the schools.

But what are the facts about the utility of using guns to protect kids (and teachers) in schools?  Actually, the number of homicides that take place in schools each year has shown the same gradual decline over the last twenty years that has characterized violent crime rates in the United States as a whole.  From 1994 to 2013, violent crime dropped roughly 50%, with most of the decline taking place prior to 2004.  As for school homicides, according to a Justice Department study, they have dropped by about the same amount over the period 1992 to 2010, and serious victimizations, including robberies and assaults, have declined by as much as two-thirds.

Most of this decline in school criminality seems to have been the result of increased attention paid to people entering school buildings and increased surveillance within the buildings.  By 2011, nearly 90% of all public schools had some kind of security measures to monitor access and the same percentage reported requiring visitor sign-ins.  On the other hand, less than one-third of all schools had armed security patrolling on a full-time or part-time basis.  And while I don’t have specific numbers on school security in Missouri, I can tell you that the last school shooting in the ‘show me’ state occurred in 1993.

Do you think there was any connection between the passage of the new Missouri gun law and the racial strife in Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown?  It’s as good a theory as any about what really motivated legislators to let guns into schools, because there sure isn’t any violence problem in Missouri schools that this law will solve.