June 24, 2018

Philly DA wants list of problem cops

Philadelphia Inquirer - The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has asked the city’s Police Department for nearly a decade’s accounting of serious violations by its officers so it can compile a comprehensive roster of those who have lied while on duty, used excessive force, racially profiled, or violated civil rights.

The exercise, unprecedented in scope in recent city history, is designed to help prosecutors flag officers with credibility issues early in a case and possibly prevent their testimony, District Attorney Larry Krasner said in an interview last week. Krasner declined to estimate how many officers may ultimately end up on the roster, but said the number would almost certainly exceed the 66 on a similar list developed by his predecessor.

The new protocol also will call for prosecutors to disclose an officer’s past infractions to defense lawyers. Krasner and the head of his conviction integrity unit, Patricia Cummings, said that the roster and new protocols are important to ensure prosecutors pursue cases built by honest and reliable police, and that potentially damaging information against officers is turned over to defendants as required by law.

Krasner dubbed the effort “one of the biggest challenges this office has ever faced.”

What Bernie Sanders was up to in the 1960s

50 years ago: Dealing with urban problems

The Capitol East Gazette was a local Washington paper, serving neighborhoods east of the Capitol, that preceded the DC Gazette and the Progressive Review, This was published two months before major riots hit Washington.

Sam Smith, February 1968 - Contrary as the thought is to our national self-image, it is entirely possible that we are in the process of giving up the struggle to solve the deepest problems of our cities. Over the past few years, we have become sharply conscious the defects .of urban life and of the misery of the people who bear the consequences. The time we had in which to act seemed painfully compressed as each summer's violence burned down rationalizations for further delay in bringing equality and decency to our cities.

But now American technology and power may have come to the rescue - not by solving the problems causing riots, but by developing means of containing and controlling violence. This summer, we are told, is going to be different. The element of surprise is largely gone.  Each city knows, as it refused to admit before, that it could happen within its borders. The urban centers are going to be ready. National guard troops are undergoing special training.  Hotlines are being established. Armored trucks are being purchased. Police riot equipment is being beefed up.  And in the psychological warfare department of the hamlet, summer pacification programs, new and exciting recreational diversions are being thought up to keep teenagers busy.

Ramsey Clark, the Attorney General, was probably correct when he told a group of police chiefs and city officials recently that the nation's power to deal with urban riots is increasing faster "than the underlying layers of frustration that cause these riots. " If Clark's prognostication proves accurate, however, the lesson the nation learns from it may be a grim one, namely that it is cheaper and more expedient to suppress riots than it is to solve the problems that produce them. It's not something to which we would quickly confess. The promises, the public articulation of altruistic hopes, and the stance of public concern and sympathy would continue long after they have no relationship to the facts. But we would not be the first nation to find it simpler to contain a restless minority than to meet its needs. Nor would it be a first in our own history.

We are fully capable of delaying needed reforms with a subtle blend of "can't and inaction. . There is a belief popular among the more radical segments of the country that America's defects are ultimately intolerable and will themselves create a mechanism of change.  This is an unduly romantic view that even the most cursory examination of other societies, past or present, contradicts. 

America can exist quite contentedly without being toppled by economic and racial inequality, riots, crime, traffic jams, pollution, or too many TV commercials. We must recognize that the majority of the nation will not pay a particularly high price for the failure to reform our cities. Some merchants will have difficulties getting insurance, plate glass purchases will increase, and taxes may go up to pay for more police and fire protection. But a country affluent enough to absorb the cost of a nonproductive major external conflict is surely able to support the cost of nonproductive minor internal violence as well.

I often notice, when I visit the more affluent sections of this or some other town, or go to the suburbs surrounding them, how little the problems that loom over every corner of the inner city touch those outside. Your friends listen politely, they are mildly interested, but you leave them knowing that there is really not much you can expect. The imperative is not there. The policeman on the beat is nice to them.  Their schools are adequate.  They can pay the doctor's bills and the rent. And a promotion is in sight. It does not take long to realize why it is going to be difficult for President Johnson to convince Congress that it is necessary to have a twelve-fold increase in low and moderate-income housing starts" over the next decade.  Most people don't need it.

The other night I watched a discussion on the local Negro TV station. Represented were a number of Negro 'militants,' a Negro member of the school board" and' a Negro member of the District Council. The moderator asked his guests what the District needed most this year.  They ticked off better housing, better jobs, and better education. Then, late in the program, the white chairman of the DC Democratic Central Committee arrived. The same question was put to him. And the first problem that came to the mind of Tilford Dudley was "transportation. " For the white Washingtonian, Dudley's response was undoubtedly accurate. Washington's chaotic traffic situation is the biggest problem the typical white government worker faces. A poll taken by Louis Harris in 1966 for the Washington Post found the District's whites (a minority group in this city) listing better transportation as the solution to a major city problem they most desired. The city's Negro majority listed better housing as its first priority; transportation didn't even make the first five on the Negro list.

The contrast in needs as conceived by these two groups becomes significant when one examines, for example, the District budget.  This year's budget proposal contains $40 million for new subways and roads and not one dime for a major new housing program. Even in a city with a Negro chief executive and a majority of Negroes on the city council (all appointed and not elected, incidentally), it is clear whose imperative gets first attention.

Without the majority of America drastically changing its sense of what is important, the victims of past inequities will carry the burden long into the future.  Just the other day the Census Bureau reported that the gap between the average annual income of Negro and white families in this country had grown by $248 dollars over the past eight years. While in terms of percentage the Negro family is doing better—earning 59% as much as the average white family as against 52% in I960—even this figure is not very encouraging. If the gap between the two decreases at the same rate, it will be two-thirds of a century more before Negro annual income catches up with white.

Of course, if the absolute gap grows, the Negro will never make it. it is part of our national faith that things will get better. But will they? The country over the past decade has enjoyed an unusual era of good intentions towards minorities and their problems. Yet despite this favorable environment we have yet to alter the nature of the ghetto or the communities of rural poor. Now we may be growing tired of trying. The hostility of Congress last session towards anti-poverty, model cities and welfare legislation is not a comforting omen.  There are signs that we are drifting from a desire to change to a desire to contain. And the majority of America has the power to take this latter and perhaps easier course. It may not only be our cities that we shall cool this summer, but our ardor for reform of inequalities as well. As we have found in Vietnam, power has an almost irresistible appeal to the powerful. It easily replaces conscience, wisdom, justice and morality. To deflect the sort of changes in our social and economic structure that a sense of decency would urge is a tedious and costly business. The bitter prospect a small part of the nation faces is that the greater part may decide it is not worth the candle. 

Police misconduct is costing cities millions

Governing -[In]  just the first eight weeks of this year ... Chicago paid out $20 million in police misconduct lawsuits, according to a local news investigation. That's outpacing its average of $47 million a year over the last six years. New York City pays by far the most. In 2017, it doled out a record $302 million for police misconduct lawsuits, according to the city controller's office.

For small cities, however, the financial impact can be even bigger. Most small governments have liability insurance to help them cover the costs of lawsuits. But legal costs for police misconduct can still place huge strains on budgets and, in some cases, can lead to law enforcement agencies being disbanded.

Recently in Lakewood, Wash., a jury returned a $15 million verdict for the death of Leonard Thomas, who was unarmed when a police sniper shot him. While Lakewood's insurance is expected to cover a portion of that payout, the city still has to spend $6.5 million on punitive damages -- an amount equivalent to 18 percent of the city's annual spending.

When misconduct lawsuit

The GOP's budget war on Americans

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - House Budget Committee Chairman Steve Womack’s new 2019 budget shows that the House majority’s fiscal priorities haven’t changed.  The budget plan maintains the costly 2017 tax cuts, while making deep cuts in health care and basic assistance for struggling families, repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and severely cutting funding over time for investments that can boost the nation’s productivity and thereby foster economic growth.  The committee’s materials show that the budget would make nearly $6 trillion in cuts over ten years to entitlements and non-defense discretionary programs, including $2.1 trillion in health care alone, including cuts to Medicaid, ACA premium tax credits, and Medicare.  The budget incorporates the failed House ACA repeal bill, which, at the time the bill was considered, the Congressional Budget Office estimated would have taken away health coverage from 23 million Americans by 2026.

Nearly 12% of adults read poerty last year

National Endowment for the Arts - Nearly 12 percent (11.7 percent) of adults read poetry in the last year, according to new data from the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. That’s 28 million adults. As a share of the total U.S. adult population, this poetry readership is the highest on record over a 15-year period of conducting the SPPA, a research partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2017 poetry-reading rate is five percentage points up from the 2012 survey period (when the rate was 6.7 percent) and three points up from the 2008 survey period (when the rate was 8.3 percent). This boost puts the total rate on par with 2002 levels, with 12.1 percent of adults estimated to have read poetry that year.

Growth in poetry reading is seen across most demographic sub-groups (e.g., gender, age, race/ethnicity, and education level), but here are highlights:

• Young adults have increased their lead, among all age groups, as poetry readers. Among 18-24-year-olds, the poetry-reading rate more than doubled, to 17.5 percent in 2017, up from 8.2 percent in 2012. Among all age groups, 25-34-year-olds had the next highest rate of poetry-reading: 12.3 percent, up from 6.7 percent in 2012.

• Women also showed notable gains (14.5 percent in 2017, up from 8.0 percent in 2012). As in prior years, women accounted for more than 60 percent of all poetry-readers. Men’s poetry-reading rate grew from 5.2 percent in 2012 to 8.7 percent in 2017.

• Among racial/ethnic subgroups, African Americans (15.3 percent in 2017 up from 6.9 percent in 2012), Asian Americans (12.6 percent, up from 4.8 percent), and other non-white, non-Hispanic groups (13.5 percent, up from 4.7 percent) now read poetry at the highest rates. Furthermore, poetry-reading increased among Hispanics (9.7 percent, up from 4.9 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (11.4 percent, up from 7.2 percent).

• Adults with only some college education showed sharp increases in their poetry-reading rates.  Of those who attended but did not graduate from college, 13.0 percent read poetry in 2017, up from 6.6 percent in 2012. College graduates (15.2 percent, up from 8.7 percent) and adults with graduate or professional degrees (19.7 percent, up from 12.5 percent) also saw sizeable increases.

• Urban and rural residents read poetry at a comparable rate (11.8 percent of urban/metro and 11.2 percent of rural/non-metro residents).