Tag Archives: police

In miniature, October 12

  • Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission held a lively hearing in Rockville Oct. 10 [Douglas Tallman, MCMedia] U.S. Supreme Court declines to speed up review of Maryland gerrymander — Lyle Denniston on what that could mean for wider issue [Constitution Center; more on Gill v. Whitford from Amy Howe, SCOTUSBlog]
  • We still need heroes: Lauren Weiner on statues and state songs [Law and Liberty, my earlier on Taney statue]
  • Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh — a Republican — signs up with trial lawyers to sue opioid makers. Not a good look [Capital Gazette, my other blog on law firm Motley Rice, which helped orchestrate the tobacco caper]
  • Also to Frederick County, Maryland: “Montgomery County Wage Hike Will Drive Business to Virginia” [Emily Top, Economics 21]
  • “Hundreds Of Cases Dismissed Thanks To Baltimore Police Department Misconduct” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt]
  • Why Columbia has so many peculiar street names: it couldn’t re-use any that had been used in Baltimore City/County or Anne Arundel [Christina Tkacik, Baltimore Sun]
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George Liebmann on the Baltimore police consent decree

George Liebmann of the Calvert Institute, who has been a critic of the U.S. Department of Justice’s consent decree with the city of Baltimore over policing practices, commented on the decree in a communication to the district court. What follows are excerpts from the submission to the court:

To: Baltimore.consent.decree@USdoj.gov

…The showing of current or recent constitutional violations by the named defendants that is a necessary predicate for federal jurisdiction and the decree is absent. The unsworn and unsigned Report attached to the Complaint recites few recent incidents, none chargeable to the current Mayor and Police Chief, and no improper directives by them. …

This is a City in which any number of Mayors, Councilmen and Police Chiefs have been black, as is at least 40% of its police force. Whatever the misconduct of a few individuals, the charge of racism is one that should not be lightly entertained, let alone sanctified, on slender or non-existent evidence, in a decree of a United States District Court. Such a finding is a jurisdictional prerequisite; the disclaimer in paragraph 5 that the City does not agree with the Findings in no way obviates the jurisdictional need for them. Their falsity and exaggeration is welcomed by the original sponsors of the decree because it feeds not only into a decree but into a political narrative supportive of electoral mobilization and identity politics.

The decree is transparently collusive—an alliance of two lame duck administrations to victimize unrepresented interests, those of the police unions and their members and those of the State, which will be pressured to provide money for reforms, the BPD being at least nominally a State agency. Nor is the United States Attorney anywhere to be found…. Article III of the Constitution limits court jurisdiction to “cases and controversies”, an important limitation. Moore v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg, 402 U. S. 47 (1971); Chicago and G.T.R. Co. v. Wellman, 143 U. S. 339(1892). There is none here; the parties have avowed since before this case filed their intention to enter a consent decree. Given the apparent lack of enthusiasm of the current Justice Department, entry of the decree will deliver public policy into the hands of advocacy groups. It is inconceivable that even the recent and current City administrations would have conceded control of the police to advocacy groups, including some with a declared agenda in favor of federal control of local law enforcement.

The vague and sweeping injunction contained in paragraph 8 can thus be enforced, if at all, only by contempt fines falling on City taxpayers and fustian from the bench. The Court, to be sure, will have the aid of a credulous press. Notwithstanding an express finding in the Report that the facts found on handling of sexual assault complaints did not establish a constitutional violation, the lead story by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jess Bidgood in the next day’s New York Times, August 16, 2016, page 1, column six at the top of the page bore the headline in the print edition: ”Baltimore Police Fostered a Bias Against Women.” The Court in its Agenda for Counsel accurately characterized the decree as “aspirational, general, lacking in deadlines” as well as lacking in information about “standards to be applied, resources, costs.”

Neither this Court nor the litigating lawyers framing the decree are authorities in police administration. As the ‘time line’ appropriately directed by the Court indicates, there are an almost comically large number of reporting requirements, the costs of which in time, manpower, morale, and response speed are not assessed. There is every reason to think that these external mandates will be resented and little in the recent history of structural decrees provides reason to think that they will be effective. Non-constructive compliance costs will be enormous, and, given paragraph 450, even the much-vaunted ceiling on monitors’ fees is bendable.

The City was vindicated in this court’s housing case after twenty years of costly litigation, the only relief granted being a cosmetic decree against the federal government affecting a few hundred families; while the case was pending, several hundred thousand minority families moved to the Baltimore suburbs without the court’s assistance. This court’s special education case was of equal length and bore fruit, as Kalman Hettleman and others have shown, in enhanced paper shuffling and no improvements in the quality of the personnel giving classroom instruction. …The effective police reformers have been Commissioners, not judges: William Bratton in 1990s New York and Los Angeles, Donald Pomerleau in 1970s Baltimore.

Paragraphs 251 through 259 of the decree relating to sexual assault are improperly included as a sop to advocacy groups in the face of a Report finding “We do not, at this time, find reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in gender-biased policy in violation of federal law.”

The provisions of paragraphs 43(b) and 61 limiting arrests for loitering, misdemeanor trespass, (important in drug law enforcement), as well as disorderly conduct, gambling, and quality of life offenses will become rapidly known and are gifts to the underworld, lowering the risks and costs of illegal drug distribution and increasing its profitability. In no way do they foster or are they equivalent to the decriminalization of drugs. The benefits of decriminalization, all absent here, include labeling, licensing, quality control, availability of drug testing without fear of self-incrimination, excise taxes, enhanced revenues from sales, payroll, income and business taxes, and the replacement of a distribution system reaching into every workplace and classroom with one operating from fixed locations. Insofar as it curbs “broken windows” and “quality of life” enforcement, the decree completely deprives the City of options the value of which is the subject of political and professional controversy, a disservice to responsible self-government.

The decree cedes power not only to the federal court and its monitor but to the federal Department of Justice itself, see paragraphs 285, 286, 298, 319, 324, 483. The merit of Justice Jackson’s view may not have been apparent in October but should be in March: “I think the potentialities of a federal centralized police system for ultimate subversion of our form of government are very great.” The decree adopts unacceptable “disparate impact” criteria on both employment and enforcement, paragraphs 43, 423 and 511 (cc). It is particularly deplorable that the last of these restrictions is buried in the “Definitions” section of the decree. Its effect, as a representative of an advocacy group has joyfully proclaimed, is to prevent police from “targeting citizens in high crime areas.” Reduced enforcement in such areas is assumed to be a public good, an insight probably not shared by the residents. …The decree is not a harmless sop, but a measure whose effect on police recruitment and behavior threatens a sudden and complete collapse of public order, or at best a long period of slow attrition as police, residents and businesses vote with their feet for jurisdictions that have not thus handcuffed themselves….

The court is being urged to enter both a political thicket and a minefield, to no good purpose….

Respectfully submitted, George W. Liebmann

Note also (via Kevin Rector of the Baltimore Sun on Twitter) this paragraph acknowledging the collusive, or sweetheart, nature of the litigation:

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Image: Wikimedia.

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In miniature, March 12

  • Members of elite Baltimore police task force falsified search warrants, robbed at least 10 victims “including some who had not committed crimes, officials said.” And oh, the overtime: “one hour can be eight hours.” [Washington Post]
  • Advisory state panel swallows dubious health claims, urges schools to cut off wi-fi [ACSH]
  • “GOP legislators offer pension reforms” [Dan Menefee, Maryland Reporter]
  • Desire for retribution aside, hanging homicide rap on dealers after overdoses unlikely to solve opiate problem [Mark Sine and Kaitlyn Boecker, Baltimore Sun]
  • May I caress your shoulder now? “Maryland ponders dangerous ‘affirmative consent’ proposal” for Montgomery County schools [Ashe Schow, Watchdog on MC 14-17, Kelly-Morales bill]
  • Recalling Tom Perez’s unusual 2013 Maryland Chamber endorsement [Tim Carney, Sean Higgins] Critical 2011 view of CASA de Maryland [James Simpson, AIM]

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Baltimore’s DOJ police consent decree

Yesterday the city of Baltimore signed a 227-page consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice putting the city’s police department under wide-ranging federal control for the indefinite future (earlier).

The decree (document; summary of high points) mingles some terms that rise to genuine constitutional significance with others that no court would have ordered, and yet others that appear not to be requirements of the law at all, but at most best practices. Many are virtually or entirely unenforceable (“professional and courteous” interaction with citizens). Whether or not the decree results in the less frequent violation of citizens’ rights, it is certain to result in large amounts of new spending and in the extension of the powers of lawyers working for various parties.

In November David Meyer Lindenberg of Fault Lines, the criminal justice website, wrote this opinion piece about the failure of DoJ police reform consent decrees to live up to the high claims often made for them (more: Scott Shackford, Reason). Our consent decrees tag traces the problems with these devices in a variety of public agencies such as those handling children’s and mental health services, as well as the budgetary rigidity they often impose.

Since Congress passed enabling legislation in 1994 in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating, the Washington Post and Frontline reported in a 2015 investigation, “Twenty-six [police] investigations — a little more than half of them since President Obama took office — have led to the most rigorous outcome: binding agreements tracked by monitors. More than half were consent decrees, meaning they were approved and managed in federal court.” As of that point only Ohio, at 4 agreements, had had more than Maryland, at 3.

This 2008 report from the Alabama Policy Institute by Michael DeBow, Gary Palmer, and John J. Park, Jr. takes a critical view of the decrees’ use in institutional reform litigation (not specifically police), and comes with a foreword by Sen. Jeff Sessions, now the nominee to replace Loretta Lynch as Attorney General of the U.S. Speaking of which, there’s something so weird about some liberals’ eagerness to hand the keys to big-city police departments over to Mr. Sessions. It’s as if they think once Main Justice is calling the shots it won’t think of using that leverage on issues like, say, sanctuary cities.

[cross-posted from Overlawyered. Note also Reuters’ new investigation of police union contracts, and related coverage in the Baltimore Sun (McSpadden case), Ed Krayewski/Reason (three years to fire misbehaving cop), and more Sun (deadly effects of police slowdown)]

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In miniature, January 4

  • May 2015 work slowdown by Baltimore police may have led to long-term higher crime rate [Daniel Bier/FEE, Alex Tabarrok/Marginal Revolution] “11 Incredible Findings from the Report on Baltimore PD” [Bier, FEE]
  • Claim: lawmakers can “give” private employees paid parental leave and “there’s no added cost to employers” [Kate Ryan, WTOP citing views of Montgomery County, Maryland council member Tom Hucker]
  • Irony alert: Get-money-out-of-politics measure passes 53-47 in Howard County after backers outspend foes 10-1 [Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter]
  • “FBI fingerprinting for Uber and Lyft in Maryland would do more harm than good” [Washington Post letter to editor from Arthur Rizer, R Street Institute]
  • “Economist: Baltimore Minimum Wage Bill Punishes Small Business Growth” [Connor Wolf]
  • Major overhaul of state contracting proposed, along with hundreds of changes to regulations [Maryland Reporter]

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In miniature, August 27

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In miniature, July 29

  • “It ought to be possible to terminate cops short of criminal convictions for incidents like that involving Gray’s” [Ed Krayewski; more from Reason on police unions here, here, and here]
  • Will national Dems throw away redistricting issue by installing Martin O’Malley, author of nation’s worst gerrymander, as DNC chair? [Baltimore Fishbowl, Jonathan Shurberg/Maryland Scramble] Despite discomfort in Annapolis, it’s “in Democrats’ best interests to fight gerrymandering on all fronts” [Eli Briody-Pavlik, Maryland Reporter] Gerrymandering’s effect within a party can be as powerful as its effect in contests between parties [J. Miles Coleman on District 8 Dem primary]
  • 5-part series on StingRay [cell phone tracking] use in Maryland law enforcement [Courtney Mabeus, Maryland Reporter]
  • Should create an opening for the local GOP, right? Montgomery County plans a massive 8.7 percent property tax hike with spending binge to match [Adam Pagnucco, The Seventh State]
  • Homeowners in Cumberland, Md., resist city’s eminent domain plans [Save Rolling Mill via Institute for Justice]
  • I criticized “Grace’s Law,” the Maryland statute criminalizing some online actions causing distress to minors, at the time; now a Eugene Volokh amicus challenges it on First Amendment grounds [Volokh Conspiracy]

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In miniature, June 23

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LEOBR reform not going well this session

Supposed reforms to Maryland’s notorious Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR) law could leave police unions with even more power than now [Washington Times, Washington Post] ACLU of Maryland report on how the law, along with the Baltimore police union contract, serve as obstacles to officer accountability [press, more] Last year, the filing of charges in the Freddie Gray case “enraged the police rank and file, who pulled back” from arrests and engagement with lethal consequences for the Baltimore crime rate; but was the work-to-rule really based on a well-founded fear of being prosecuted over good police practice? [Richard Oppel/New York Times, NYT “Room for Debate” and more, Alex Tabarrok/Marginal Revolution]

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In miniature, January 24

  • Montgomery County officials helped plant letters praising speed cameras in local press [The Newspaper]
  • After state panel recommends 22 steps to improve police-community relations, Fraternal Order of Police rejects “any and all” reforms [Anthony Fisher, Reason] Earlier: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake recommends 11 changes to LEOBR police “bill of rights” law [Baltimore Sun, text of letter, previously October and more]
  • “Why Beretta is moving its gun factory to Tennessee” [CNN]
  • “10 Things I Learn Reading Jury Verdicts and Settlements” [Ronald Miller]
  • “It’s time to stop prioritizing political interests over voting rights. We need independent redistricting reform.” [Rep. Donna Edwards on Twitter]
  • From six years ago, but still relevant: Len Lazarick, “Curing Maryland’s Structural Deficits: A Call for Mandate Reform” [Free State Foundation, PDF]

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