PoliceIssues | Crime and Justice


There’s no “regulating” the threat posed by highly lethal firearms (#305, 2/21/18)

     “We could not have been more prepared for this situation, which is what makes it so frustrating.” Broward County high school teacher Melissa Falkowski’s despairing words aptly convey the consequences of allowing highly lethal firearms to proliferate in civilian hands. With seventeen presently confirmed dead, the toll of the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, exceeds that of the Columbine high school shooting, where twelve died, but is considerably fewer than the twenty-seven who fell at Sandy Hook Elementary. And if we include non-school shootings, far less than the fifty-eight recently murdered in Las Vegas.

     Skim through the “Gun Control” section of this blog. Check out some of the posts linked below. It’s not that America didn’t anticipate what would most certainly happen again, nor, however futilely, try to get ready. Falkowski said that her school trained for such an event. “Broward County Schools has prepared us for this situation and still to have so many casualties, at least for me, it’s very emotional. Because I feel today like our government, our country has failed us and failed our kids and didn’t keep us safe.” When she and her students realized that this was no drill and that an “active shooter” was really about, simply following protocol (i.e., locking the classroom door and being quiet) clearly didn’t suffice. Improvising the best they could, the teacher and her nineteen frightened students huddled in a closet and nervously awaited SWAT.

     Nikolas Cruz, the nineteen-year old shooter, had been a troubled teen. His erratic behavior led to numerous run-ins with peers, teachers and neighbors and to home visits by police. In 2016 Cruz posted online images of fresh, self-inflicted cuts on his arms and indicated that he planned to buy a gun. That led to a peremptory investigation by a Florida state agency, which ultimately accepted a mental health counselor’s conclusion that Cruz “was not at risk to harm himself or others.” But Cruz’s behavior didn’t improve and he was expelled from Stoneman Douglas. It’s now evident that he was the “Nikolas Cruz” who posted “Im going to be a professional school shooter” on a YouTube channel last fall.

     Still, Cruz’s life wasn’t completely disorganized. A family had taken him in, he was attending GED classes and worked at a dollar store. This job was the likely source of funds for the AR-15 rifle he used in the massacre, which he legally purchased in 2017 at “Sunrise Tactical Supply,” a Coral Springs gun store.  (Yes, eighteen year-olds can buy rifles. But not a handgun!)

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   Relevant now!


What can be done to prevent mass shootings? (#300, 11/19/17)

      Please forgive us if this essay seems a bit more prescriptive than what Police Issues normally offers, but it’s only been a few days since an angry, heavily armed man opened fire in a rural Texas church, leaving twenty-six dead and more than a dozen injured, many critically.

     It’s not to make light of this horror to point out that within hours of last month’s reveals about Hollywood Harvey, waves of similar accusations engulfed prominent figures on both sides of the Atlantic, leading a growing number of highly-placed “untouchables” to lose lucrative contracts, past honors and memberships in influential groups and making them vulnerable to unwelcome non-sexual advances by aggressive prosecutors.

     So where’s the follow-through when dozens of innocents are gunned down? That’s the question we should have asked after Las Vegas. And Orlando. And San Bernardino. And Sandy Hook. And Aurora. And on and on. (Click here for CNN’s comprehensive list of mass shootings.) To be sure, one might argue that every killer was appropriately punished. Excepting a few such as James Holmes, who drew life without parole for murdering a dozen movie-goers in Aurora, Colorado, mass shooters have usually perished at their own hands or those of the police.

     When it comes to violent crime, it really is all about prevention. Poor behavior is far less likely when one has the capacity to reason and a lot to lose. Publicly shaming Hollywood Harveys affords a lot of welcome support to victims of sexual misconduct. Lasting cultural reform seems just around the corner. In contrast, calling it a day (as we usually do) after yet another unhinged killer commits suicide or is killed by a cop seems wildly inadequate.

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Prior posts

Why do Cops Lie?: Often, for the same reasons as their superiors (#304, 2/10/18)

Be Careful What You Brag About (Part II): Citywide crime statistics are ripe for misuse (#303, 1/25/18)

Be Careful What You Brag About (Part I): Is the Big Apple's extended crime drop all it seems to be? (#302, 1/15/18)

Accidentally on Purpose: A remarkable registry challenges conventional wisdom about the causes of wrongful conviction (#301, 12/24/17)

Massacre Control: What can be done to prevent mass shootings? (#300, 11/19/17)

"Bump Stocks" Aren't the (Real) Problem: Outlawing them is a good idea. But it’s hardly the solution. (#299, 10/8/17)

Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States (Part II): Should states legalize recreational pot? (#298, 9/5/17)

Sanctuary Cities, Sanctuary States (Part I): What happens when communities turn their backs on immigration enforcement? (#297, 8/23/17)

Three (In?)explicable Shootings: Grievous police blunders keep costing citizen lives. Why? (#296, 8/1/17)

Silence Isn't Always Golden: A proposal to deregulate firearms silencers ignores the hazards of policing (#295, 7/14/17)

A Lost Cause: Legislators are ambushed. And a gun-numbed land shrugs and moves on. (#294, 6/24/17)

Are Civilians Too Easy on the Police?: When attempts are made to sanction cops, citizens often get in the way (#293, 6/3/17)

Ideology Trumps Reason: Clashing belief systems challenge criminal justice policymaking (#292, 5/16/17)

People do Forensics: Conflicts about oversight neglect a fundamental issue (#291, 4/30/17)

Why Do Cops Succeed?: Shifting resources from finding fault to studying success (#290, 4/13/17)

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Pressures to solve notorious crimes can lead to tragic miscarriages of justice (#289, 3/19/17)

Is Crime Up or Down? Well, it Depends: It depends on where one sits, when we compare, and on who counts (#288, 2/27/17)

An Illusory Consensus (Part II): Good intentions don't always translate into good policy (#287, 2/10/17)

An Illusory Consensus: America's police leaders agree on the use of force. Or do they? (#286, 1/29/17)

Do Gun Laws Work?: Are they doing any good? We crunch the numbers to find out (#285, 1/11/17)

Is Trump Right About the Nation's Inner Cities?: America's low-income communities desperately need a New Deal (#284, 12/17/16)

A Stitch in Time: Could early intervention save officer and citizen lives? (#283, 11/26/16)

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: To avoid anointing Trump, the FBI Director falls into a trap of his own making (#282, 11/2/16)

A Matter of Life and Death: In an era of highly lethal firearms, keeping patrol informed is job #1 (#281, 10/20/16)

Is it Always About Race?: Unruly citizens and streets brimming with guns make risk-tolerance a very hard sell (#280, 10/5/16)

Words Matter: In a conflicted, gun-saturated land, heated rhetoric threatens cops’ effectiveness - and their lives (#279, 9/17/16)

Where Should Cops Live?: Officer-citizen conflicts stir renewed interest in residency requirements (#278, 9/2/16)

Getting Out of Dodge: For families caught in dangerous neighborhoods, there is one option (#277, 8/19/16)

Better Late Than Never (Part II): DOJ proposes rules for forensic testimony. Do they go far enough? (#276, 8/3/16)

Good Guy/Bad Guy/Black Guy (Part II): Aggressive crime-fighting strategies can exact an unintended toll (#275, 7/18/16)

Good Guy/Bad Guy/Black Guy (Part I): Do cops use race to decide who poses a threat? (#274, 7/18/16)

Intended or not, a Very Rough Ride: A hung jury and two acquittals mar Baltimore's crusade against police violence (#273, 7/3/16)

A Ban in Name Only: Pretending to regulate only makes things worse (#272, 6/21/16)

Better Late Than Never (Part I): A "hair-raising" forensic debacle forces DOJ's hand (#271, 6/10/16)

Location, Location, Location: Crime happens. To find out why, look to where (#270, 5/25/16)

Orange is the New Brown: L.A.'s past sheriff and undersheriff pack their bags for Hotel Fed. (#269, 5/7/16)

Role Reversal: Chicago's falling apart. Who can make the violence stop? (#268, 4/25/16)

Is a Case Ever too Cold?: Citing factual errors, an Illinois prosecutor successfully moves to free a convicted killer (#267, 4/16/16)

After the Fact: Ordinary policing strategies can't prevent terrorism (#266, 3/31/16)

More Rules, Less Force?: PERF promotes written guidelines to reduce the use of force. Cops aren't happy (#265, 3/18/16)

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