Home Invasion: Racial Disparities in SWAT Raids

Home Invasion: Racial Disparities in SWAT Raids

On Sunday, June 10, a square block surrounding the Champaign County Courthouse was evacuated and closed off to conduct what Sheriff Dan Walsh called “police training.” Walsh stood at the corner of Main and Elm Street talking to news reporters, telling them to make sure and point cameras at the front doors of the courthouse to get the best view of the SWAT operation they were about to conduct. Throughout the afternoon, police ran between buildings with guns drawn, snipers took position from a nearby parking garage, and “tanks” rolled down the streets. The Sheriff’s SWAT team had taken over downtown Urbana.  

Several reality shows on TV now depict the dangerous work of SWAT teams in major cities across the country. They show video footage of police negotiating hostage situations, busting drug kingpins, or thwarting bomb threats. Since 911, federal grants from Homeland Security have provided money for local police departments to buy additional equipment, claiming they are fighting terrorism. We have created a culture of fear that has justified the massive spending of public money to build SWAT teams, which the police themselves regard as elite paramilitary forces, with an array of high-powered weaponry, specialized equipment, and armored vehicles.

For this study, I requested police reports through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) from our two local police departments and the Sheriff’s Department regarding SWAT raids. I gathered information on 63 SWAT raids and compiled the statistics. In looking at the results, I found that SWAT raids are nearly always for drugs, warrants are usually granted through the use of informants, and almost all raids are conducted on African American households.

Overkill

Since the Reagan era, we have seen a proliferation of specialized SWAT teams, although their origin goes back to the 1960s when the LAPD formed a SWAT team after the Watts riots and first used it in a 1968 shoot out with the Black Panthers. Today, these raids have become so common that they have even raised the ire of right-wing groups. A study by Radley Balko titled, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, was funded by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. Balko reports that an astonishing 40,000 police raids are carried out each year in the United States.

Balko notes that many of these raids are conducted in search of drugs, although his greatest concern is not for non-violent offenders. His interest is in the numerous cases where police raid the wrong home and innocent civilians are treated like criminals, some of them even shot and killed. A man’s home is his castle, so the saying goes, and to libertarians the rise of paramilitary police raids is an alarming example of the government infringing upon individual rights.

Of course, race played no part in Balko’s analysis, suggesting that conducting raids on the homes of African Americans is acceptable, as they are the true criminals. My study of SWAT raids in Champaign County exposes how it is most always African Americans whose homes are invaded.

There are past cases in Urbana-Champaign where the use of SWAT teams has ended in tragedy. On December 11, 1998, the News-Gazette covered the story of an 81 year-old African American woman who claimed she was grabbed by the neck and thrown to the floor by Champaign’s SWAT team and had to go to the hospital for injuries. The Champaign SWAT team was there to serve a outstanding warrant from Wisconsin to the woman’s grandson, who was not even in the house at the time.

Last year, on May 11, 2006, Champaign police received a call from Garden Hills, about Carl “Dennis” Stewart, a suicidal black man alone in his car with a gun. The Champaign police called out the SWAT team and rolled out their prized Armored Personnel Carrier. After a four-hour standoff, Stewart was chased down the street by the APC. Cornered by police, he put the gun to his head and killed himself. 

According to one study, in cities with a population of at least 50,000, 90 percent have at least one SWAT team. This figure has doubled since the mid-1980s. In Champaign-Urbana, with a population of around 100,000, we have two SWAT teams, Champaign’s and the County’s.

The first SWAT team in Urbana-Champaign goes back to 1985, when the University of Illinois and the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office formed the Tactical Response Unit. In 1991, the Urbana Police Department joined and the name was changed to the Metropolitan Emergency Tactical Response Operations (METRO) team. Today, METRO is a multi-jurisdictional operation that also includes police from Rantoul, Mahomet, and Champaign.

The Champaign Police Department has the resources to maintain its own SWAT team, information on which is hard to find. After 9-11, Champaign purchased an Armored Personnel Carrier with funds provided by Homeland Security. It is essentially an armored truck converted for police use. Although it is not marked as a police vehicle, it can be identified by the gun slots in the doors. Champaign has recently purchased a second armored tank, innocuously called a “Rescue Vehicle,” as if it were the same as a fire truck or ambulance.

There are also specialized drug units that collect information on suspects and utilize SWAT teams to serve warrants. The Sheriff’s Department has a Street Crimes Unit (SCU). Urbana also has a Street Crimes Unit, which was re-instated in 2006 by Police Chief Mike Bily, after lapsing for a year due to budget constraints. In Champaign they have a Narcotics Unit to investigate drugs.

The Sheriff’s METRO team is the most encompassing SWAT force. They receive training at the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois (which has recently being affiliating itself with the private security forces Blackwater and Triple Canopy, increasingly under scrutiny for their involvement in Iraq). When the METRO team conducts raids, they arrive in the Armored Personnel Carrier. These officers look like stormtroopers when in full gear. They wear green camouflage clothing, black flak jackets with “police” written on the back, ballistic helmets, and face shields. They usually conduct raids in the early morning hours, around five or six a.m. Breaking down doors with a “ram” device, they often find the suspect in bed, naked and unaware. Officers carry AR 15 assault rifles. At least two snipers are assigned. If there is, for example, a pit bull at the suspect’s residence, police may carry a rifle that shoots non-lethal bean-bags (at $2 a bag). The police also have their own drug dogs. The intent is to apply the maximum use of force to surprise and overwhelm the suspect.

Statistical Breakdown

For this study, I looked at the police reports for 63 separate SWAT raids. The data collection is somewhat flawed, because many names were not included, cases were still pending, or basic information was blacked out in the police reports.

In filing my FOIA requests, I found that the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and the Urbana Police Department were the most forthcoming with information. The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office provided me with all police reports for three years, 2004, 2005, and 2006, and sent them to me within two weeks. I requested only the 2006 reports from Urbana, as it usually relies on the Sheriff’s multi-jurisdictional METRO team to conduct raids. Yet the Champaign Police Department, whose SWAT team is very well-funded and heavily-armed, was unwilling to hand over information.

In Champaign, I had to schedule a meeting with Police Chief R.T. Finney and city attorney Trisha Crowley, who put me through a rigorous screening process and narrowed my search to only 2006. It took six weeks to get the information and when I received it many of the documents were heavily blacked out. The level of secrecy in the Champaign Police Department is a reflection of their unwillingness to undergo any kind of oversight, as witnessed by the Champaign city council’s voting down of a Citizen Police Review Board despite the recommendations by their own Police-Community Relations Committee.

After finally collecting all the information, I was interested in finding out: 1) The race of the suspect, 2) How many raids were for drugs 3) How many warrants were gained through the use of confidential informants. Some very clear patterns were evident in my findings.

In regards to race, we already know that of the 4,845 felony and misdemeanor charges filed by the State’s Attorney’s office in 2006, 3,868 were against African Americans. That comes to 79% of all charges. A courtwatching study done by U of I law professor Steve Beckett showed that 70% of defendants are African American.

In my FOIA of SWAT raids, I found that in 49 incidents where race was indicated, 44 were black. That means that 90% of SWAT raids were conducted on African American homes. The concentration of raids were in the black neighborhoods north of University and on Lierman Street in southeast Urbana [See map].

Despite the media propaganda of bomb scares and terrorist attacks, the wide majority of SWAT raids were for drugs. There was an occasional suicide case, warrant for a murder suspect, or a call for an “armed barricaded subject.”

In 52 SWAT raids where the cause of the warrant could be determined, 45 were for drug searches. This indicates that 87% of SWAT raids were for drugs. 

The argument for specialized drug teams and SWAT raids is that they are cutting down on drug trafficking, and also reduce other crimes that result from drugs. Yet often it is only low-level dealers who are caught. Drug users will find a new dealer, and there are too many who find it easier to deal drugs than to find well-paying work. Drugs are still relatively easy to get and usage has not gone down in over 25 years of the “war on drugs.” We only have more people being prosecuted and imprisoned for non-violent offenses. They make up over half of the 2.2 million people in U.S. prisons. In Illinois, 66% of those who are in prison for drugs are black, and the state’s rate of blacks incarcerated for drug possession is the highest in the country.

Urbana Police Chief Mike Bily told the News-Gazette that his Street Crimes Unit, which had been revived in 2006 after being suspended the previous year for lack of funds, has had “a significant impact on reducing our drug crimes, which affects other crimes, like burglary” (2/26/2007). Indeed, the SCU busted over 100 more people in 2006. Police data showed that there were 341 drug crimes in 2005 and 452 in 2006. Yet the number of burglaries had also increased, from 341 in 2005 to 452 in 2006, disproving Bily’s theory. 

Of the seven raids conducted by the Urbana Street Crimes Unit in 2006, all were for drugs. There was no indication that stolen property was found in any of the raids, despite Chief Bily’s linkage of drugs and burglary. In what is known by locals as the People’s Republic of Urbana, three of the seven police raids only turned up small amounts of marijuana, all under an ounce.

Just a few number of raids netted a large amount of drugs. Most individuals were low-level dealers who were only found in possession of small amounts. In one Urbana case, only 0.3 grams of crack cocaine was discovered after ten Urbana police invaded the house of a black woman. She was convicted on a felony charge of selling drugs to an informant. In another case, no drugs were found and a single 12 gage shotgun shell was used to revoke the probation of an earlier obstruction of justice charge (which was the result of racial profiling), and the individual was sentenced to a year in prison.

I was able to collect the complete records for the raids conducted by the Sheriff’s METRO team in 2006, which are representative of the trends in Champaign County. Of the 12 raids conducted by METRO in 2006, all were for drugs. African Americans made up 11 of the 12 individuals whose homes were raided. Only two people had a large amount of drugs.

Many of the warrants obtained for SWAT raids are gained through the use of informants. In one study conducted in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, it was found that 87% of warrants were secured with the help of informants. These are individuals who may be drug addicts, are stopped by police, threatened with felony charges, and then coerced into being snitches for the police. Recently, a man arrested during a SWAT raid was acquitted of drug charges after a jury heard questionable testimony from an informant, a felon with multiple convictions, who said she hoped to get a break on her own pending charges in exchange for her testimony (News-Gazette, 9/15/2007). This pernicious practice is under attack by activists who have started the “stop snitching” campaign, which has been endorsed by several hip hop artists.

In 2006, all but one of the searches conducted by the Sheriff’s METRO unit were gained through the use of informants. Surpassing the example of Raleigh-Durham, 92% of raids conducted by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office were conducted through the use of informants. The only exception was a case where Khat, a plant grown in the Middle East and Africa with psychedelic effects, was intercepted when sent through Fed Ex. It is impossible to know from court documents the name of the confidential source or to find out if they were given a lighter sentence. They only appear in police reports under ridiculous aliases like, “William Love,” “Pancho Sanchez,” or “Brenda Coker.”

For Entertainment Purposes

The one deviation from the METRO unit’s targeting of blacks in 2006 was a raid conducted on two white males who were found to be neo-Nazis. The police secured a warrant after a coordinated cocaine purchase, but when they raided the house they found much more than drugs. The photographs taken by police show Nazi posters on the walls with swastikas and images of marching SS stormtroopers. The police discovered a loaded AK-47 and a cache of weapons in the apartment. They found a total of five rifles: an AMK-ARA K-Kale old military style rifle, a loaded Colt AR-15 .223 caliber rifle, a loaded Remington .22 caliber rifle, a WARDS Western Field .22 caliber rifle, and a Remington Super Magnum 12 gauge shotgun. They found 2 handguns: a Smith and Wesson revolver in the house, and a loaded .45 caliber pistol in one of the man’s car. Police also found a veritable stockpile of ammunition.

Additionally, police found the explosives potassium perchlorate, Stearic Acid powder, and Titanium Dioxide. But these two neo-Nazis were not prosecuted under new federal anti-terrorism laws, nor were they characterized as “gang members.” According to the police report authored by Sgt. Brian Mennenga, these explosive items were only believed to be used for “entertainment purposes.” There is no mention in the police reports of these two being neo-Nazis. Yet they were evidently preparing for a full-scale race war.

In contrast, there is an incident on August 25, 2004 where the Sheriff’s METRO unit was called out for a group of black youth who had snuck into the county fair without paying entry fees. Police described them as members of a “teenage street gang” who all wore white T-shirts. The youth were stopped, patted down, and one of them was found with a toy gun.

Or compare the example of these two neo-Nazis with another case from 2006 in which the METRO unit invaded an African American home after two alleged drug sales and then found no drugs at the household. A stolen gun found at the residence (which although police reports claim it was touched by the suspect, lab tests showed the gun had no fingerprints) was used to revoke the individual’s probation from a burglary case four years previous. This man now sits indefinitely in the state penitentiary.

Of the two neo-Nazis, one was given a 12 month conditional discharge for not having a registered FOID card for the AK-47. (Remember, Bush lifted the ban on assault weapons in 2004.) The other neo-Nazi, charged with delivery of large amounts of cannabis and powder cocaine, has received eight continuances to date and his case is still pending (Case nos. 06-CF-1561/06-CF-1562).

Million Dollar Question

Local officials wash their hands of any blame when asked about racial disparities in the criminal justice system. At a public event on March 13, 2007 audience members were allowed to present questions to their elected officials. When asked why blacks are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said:

“Well, isn’t that the million dollar question. That’s the question that is asked of all of us sitting here, in social services, in government, in our churches, in our schools. I’m certainly not going to stand up here and tell you that I, Julia Rietz, State’s Attorney for Champaign County, has the answer to that question. Because I don’t.  Because none of you sitting here do either. It’s a combination of things. It’s a societal issue. It’s a chicken and egg problem. Where did it come from first?  Where did it start? I can’t tell you why it is.” 

When I asked Sheriff Dan Walsh what the ratio of black to white suspects involved in SWAT raids, he said, “I do not know the answer to that. We don’t keep statistics based on that.”

Authorities often say there is more crime in black neighborhoods. They say this is where all the service calls come from. Yet in the case of drug raids, police are selectively pursuing individuals. Studies have shown that blacks and whites use and sell drugs at equal rates. Still, it is commonly believed that only blacks are drug dealers. The targeting of blacks by SWAT teams is unequal enforcement of the law, plain and simple. What would happen if a SWAT team targeted a fraternity house on campus or a suburban home in Cherry Hills?

An on-line version of Radley Balko’s Overkill can be found at: http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/balko_whitepaper_2006.pdf

Champaign Armored Personnel Carrier

The documents, please?

Can you post the reports online that you used for your study, so that the public may evaluate them 1st hand and come to their own conclusions?

docs

There are hundreds of pages of documents, this is impossible.

I can give you case file numbers if you would like to look up indivdual cases.

Otherwise, whether a report indicates a black or white offender is not a matter of interpretation.

BD

Just asking...

Since you chose to publish your findings easily accessable on the net, it would be nice if the reader was able to view your sources using the same medium. There's billions of web pages, what's a few hundred more?

Asking a website reader to basically go through the same trouble you went through is a guarantee that no one will check out your sources. The purpose (in my mind, at least) of doing such a study is to provide information to others that they are unable to do for themselves, due to lack of time, resources, etc. Many people care about this - most people don't care about it so much that they're willing to spend weeks and months devoted to FOIA requests and grueling analysis. But I would assume that many people would take the time to at least peruse your sources, were they readily available on the same forum as your conclusions.

How bout scanning in each case and uploading it as browser-viewable/downloadable PDF files. That way, a) its right there for the reader, transparent for all to see, b) we can see exactly what sources you used (government paperwork can be confusing when trying to retrace another researcher's footsteps) and c) we can actually count the numbers for ourselves. At the moment, we have no way of knowing if your racial ratio is even accurate.

Where the Burden of Proof Should Be

First, it's hard to take seriously an anonymous request for a volunteer reporter to engage in hours more of work than they have already put into the story. It rather much sounds like you think that Mr. Dolinar is making up these disturbing statistics that indicate -- once again -- wide racial disparities in the local law enforcement system. The findings here are consistent with other studies that demonstrate that race is a significant factor in the workings of -- I won't call it justice, because it often isn't -- the legal system in Champaign County.

Those who should make this information easily available to the public are the police themselves. The fact that getting this info required Freedom of Information requests and lots of leg work should indicate a significant reason to generate suspicions about the motives of the police in making this info so hard to get for the public. You're barking up the wrong tree, attacking the messenger, because you don't like facts in the message. The lack of transparency by the police is almost as big a problem as their racially biased police work.

The article is extensively sourced and the statistics indicate endemic, systematic institutional racism in the use of SWAT teams in Champaign County. That is disturbing, but take your misdirected anger about that fact and do something about ending the abusive police practices documented here. Or are you afraid that is what others WILL do and you'd prefer to attack the messenger, because you already know that the facts are real?

Race

Good job. Someone is finally reporting that there is a problem in the black community. Maybe they should be told that if they work hard, they can succeed like everyone else and will not wind up on jail. Rappers and the like talk about violence and degrade blacks, which does not help the black community. Bill Cosbey noted this and was demonized by "leaders" of the black community. Are there any other black success figures who are not demonized? For example, Clarence Thomas, Condeleza Rice, Bill Cosby, and others are looked down upon. In many instances, the self-proclaimed black leaders (Farakkan, Jackson....) look down on these successful black people instead of using them as examples of success.

Who's attacking the messenger?

It was a simple request, nothing more, nothing less. If you detected animosity in my posts toward Brian, then I apologize, for none was intended.

Now, it isn't the job of the police department to do the work for Brian. If Brian wants to share his sources in a manner such that Joe Internet-Reader can see them, great. If not, no big deal - I won't lose any sleep over it. My only concern is that Brian has raised some interesting issues, not the least of which is the racial disparity, and it would be nice for the reader to be able to go back through, case by case, and look at all of the factors surrounding each case to look for a little more nuance in the trends.

Finally, please don't get your back up over me, shooting pointed rhetorical questions my way, hoping to elicit a response. I know you're looking to pick a fight, but do it with someone else.

You're Not Picking a Fight, You're Trolling

I don't see any particular reason to question Mr. Dolinar's sources. In fact, if you were really being straightforward and have an actual problem here, you'd have already said something specific about that. Instead, you're making a general and somewhat mealy mouthed argument that Dolinar needs to start over, because he's really got nothing much as far as you're concerned. It never ceases to amaze how some people are so blind to injustice.

I do see a great deal of evidence that the police should now be questioned about such stunningly high levels of racial disparity that result from their SWAT practices and procedures. They're the ones with some explaining to do, not Dolinar.

I suppose that stastitics of certain police actions and charges that reach rates of 90% and beyond involving African-Americans is not evidence of racial disparity to you. Even a course in elementary statistics would tell you that the chance of that happening in any one year is astronomical, but it is something that happens year after year in Champaign County.

I did see one minor error in Brian's story, since he argued that whites and blacks have roughly equal rates of drug use. I've seen a number of studies that indicate that blacks use drugs Less than whites do on average. Whatever the case, when blacks are virtually the only citizens getting the SWAT tank parked at their front door, it's not because of chance and its not because they use drugs more than whites and it's not because of much anything except the persistent racial biases that exist in Champaign County.

If you want to see a different conclusion about the data, then do the legwork and write your own report. But why bother? The News-Gazette already is doing that.

 

Labels, labels...

Call me what you want, waste your energy on me, I could care less.

Its a very simple request: post sources.

Request was obviously denied, end of discussion.

Get a grip.

Let's See

Brian clearly identified his sources.

By identifying his sources, he has exceeded the standard usually expected of, but not always practiced by, professional journalists. Anyone can take the info Brian provided in his article and track down the same sources to verify any issue, if one was actually identified with what Brian wrote.

Someone wants Brian to go over and above what is expected of professional journalists by publishing every scrap of paper he saw on the project, meanwhile insinuating that otherwise there is something wrong here. No effort is made to speak to a problem with any specific fact or issue, just a broad-based smear was offered because Brian won't jump as high as the mysterious obsessed voice asks.

There may be significant privacy issues involved in publishing on the internet police reports versus simply extracting info from them for use in statistical analysis.

Yeah, let's all get a grip. It does smell a lot like troll in here.

Perception is Everything

I once asked Brian Silverman (yeah, this is not a good source, I know) who it is that deals drugs in Champaign County in light of the majority of arrests and prosecutions are blacks. Silverman suggested that drugs are sold in this community by blacks.

Anyone living here for any length of time knows that whites deal alot of drugs, have the resources to bring it in from the major cities, and fly under police radar because of the racial preferences of law enforcement. The publicity departments of law enforcement have done an excellent job over 30 years selling the public that the drug dealing boogie man is a black person.  

What makes Dolinar's study so appalling is not only the racial targeting, but the use of SWAT teams at taxpayer's expense to accomplish so very little. The amount of drugs recovered by SWAT teams hardly covers the overtime pay for the cops to play suburban cowboys. Drug use in Champaign County should be addressed, not the unsurprising reality that some poor folks make a little cash on the side on the black market. The county jail and prisons are being filled with drug addicts who are small-time dealers- and usually dealers who are either poor and/or black. Citizens should wonder what are the priorities of law enforcement: reducing drug use? (which puts them in the Nanny Government role) or catching people to put in jail? (which is what the drug war is, a jobs program for police, lawyers, and prison guards.) SWAT teams are just another form of abuse that the drug war has become. Meanwhile, the white middle class uses its little stash bought from another white person, all content to watch others go to jail for what they do themselves. It's sad to see law enforcement actually believing they have a public mandate to arrest people for drugs. What a waste of lives and money. For more information see  www.leap.cc  

This amazes me

This pernicious practice is under attack by activists who have started the “stop snitching” campaign, which has been endorsed by several hip hop artists.

Good WORK

Hey Brian,

Good work again you have uncovered the disparity in the Champaign County legal profession. Let see if we have some real comments about indivduals who possess automatic machine guns versus someone with a background their house raided by the swat team and caught with less then a kilogram of cocaine with a street value of less then a few thousand dollars. Their purpose is to push forward hatred toward another race of people. Maybe it's good to have some one like these people protecting a race of people. 

PDT

?

where did you see anything about an automatic machine gun?

public documents

If we are interested in public documents being open to the public, we really need to challenge the State's Attorney Julia Rietz reverse her 2007 policy of closing off the police reports and discovery materials on cases.

Rietz's recent enforcement of 415c is an attempt to close off public records to the media.

BD

The request wasn't about the state making records public...

...it was about posting documents already obtained by the "public" online...

He's So Precious! Little OT Wants You to Pay Attention to HIM!

Awww, how cute!

Little make-work obsessive troll is back.

He's got his little fists held down at his sides and is jumping up and down, howling about wanting to see exactly what made the author come to the conclusion that SWAT is mostly a means to keep the slave driver's hammer coming down on the head of black folks.

But obsessive troll (let's just call him OT, for short, plus that really fits his tangent-oriented agenda) is just not convinced by that, despite the fact that all one needs to do is visit the county jail or go by the county courthouse to see how typical such a result is in under the current legal regime.

"Ol OT wants to change the subject, right away! OT certainly doesn't want to talk about how having the SWAT team regularly invading the homes of black folks, just like the infamous bounty hunters of the slave onwers, is state terrorism of the most despicable sort.

I'd say if OT wants to talk about things, he start doing the work expected of a journalist, get his own sources, document them like Brian has, and then come back when he has some facts at his disposal. But if the facts are against your thesis, as seems to be the case for OT, darn, it sure is hard to do much other than to stick to anonymously floating red herrings and beating horses so dead no one realizes they were ever actually a horse.

Amazing...

...that one could have so much animosity against someone they know nothing about....

...or could read so much hatred into a simple, even-keeled request....

...but you rock on with your bad self...

Tell me again...

...exactly what is that Brian so expertly proved?

1) Primary documents for the study (already censored for SSNs, etc, and released to the public, by Brian's own admission - therefore, there shouldn't be any remaining concern for privacy issues) have been refused to be posted. The reason for refusal to post - a large number of documents - seems incredibly petty and pretty weak compared to the amount of time and effort that he supposedly has already put in to this project.

2) Any attempt at asking for these documents has been shot down because, well, "we should trust brian over 'the system.'" Still not entirely sure why that is.

3) "Taking a trip to the county jail", and each reader taking all the time and effort that brian supposedly did to look up the cases that he supposedly used is a substitute for providing sources in an open and transparent manner? Is that "clearly identifying sources?"

4) The mere fact that BD is involved with this should give concern about the credibility and motive of the story. Brian is notoriously anti-government, anti-law, anti-police, has a very long record of stretching the truth during "research" such as this to the point of incomprehensibility, and has done nearly everything in his power to antagonize those from whom he would obtain information for such stories. He's got a bone to pick with "the man", and I believe that his feet should be held to the fire for every single claim he makes. He has long ago lost the presumption of being an unbiased third party.

BTW, there's nothing at all wrong with being an interested party, a biased activist reporter - he's clearly an activist first and foremost, and that's certainly respectable. However, he must understand that that necessarily means that every claim he makes must be proved to an audience of skeptics, every single time, over and above the standards for someone who has proved through past performance that they ARE indeed an uninterested, unbiased third party. He can't have it both ways - he made his own bed.

All I have seen to give any backing to this story so far is Brian's own hubris and popularity among a segment of the society that already believes him. Congratulations, don't hurt yourselves patting each other on the back.

Now, if Brian, et al,  would agree that posting the central sources is key to solidifying his "study" among skeptics, we can move on to actually discussing the problems he addresses in the story. Until that time, we might as well be discussing conspiracy theories in Star Wars, as this is merely a mildly interesting work of fiction without documentation.

...or we can keep getting upset with the skeptic (ie, "troll"), keep up the name calling, and continue patting each other on the back, but not actually get anywhere with a discussion.

volunteer?

If you, anonymous, would like to make a photocopy of the original docs, scan them, and post them online, it would be a great benefit to this study.

I have nothing to hide - unlike the local authorities.

Do I have a volunteer?

BD 

I didn't do the study...

...if I did the study, then it would be up to me. Grunt work is part of the work of research, no matter how mundane: do your own work.

It's not up to me to prove it to myself, its up to you to prove it to me, the skeptical public.

Really...?

This pernicious practice is under attack by activists who have started the “stop snitching” campaign, which has been endorsed by several hip hop artists.

 

So you support the "Stop Snitching" campaign, I take it?  Why are you in favor of witness intimidation?

Making Good Choices

Choosing  to not be a snitch has nothing to do with "witness intimidation."

However, making up a bunch of charges against someone, then asking them to snitch on others, now, that does sound like witness initimidation.

The snitch is the lazy and corrupt cops crutch. Why do any work, when you can just twist arms? Few are aware that a big part of the testimony in many prosecutions is reliant on the word of those with something to gain from telling stories about someone else. 

Honest questions

Brian, if one of your students submitted a persuasive research paper such as this, and provided next-to-nothing (ie, a handful of case citations) out of 63 (claimed, at least) sources, what grade would you give that person? Given the difficulty you had in obtaining the documentation for the 63 cases, do you think its reasonable to believe that you, as an instructor, would be satisfied with merely the case numbers, and no copies of the documents themselves? Since you evaluated the cases together as a whole, don't you think it would be reasonable to provide copies of all 63 cases, as one missing case would skew the results of someone else looking into your work?

Noting that this is an internet forum, how do you propose we discuss your study, based solely on your interprettation of the 63 cases, without Joe Internet-Reader being able to have a level playing field from which to discuss? You say you have nothing to hide, and on a personal note, I believe you, but how are we supposed to discuss anything of substance if you're holding all the cards, and not plainly posting the cases for all to see? At this point, we're resigned to using your study as a secondary source, but only you have seen the whole deck laid out side by side.

Perhaps there are trends you didn't see, perhaps there are circumstances of individual cases that we, the public, would interpret differently than yourself - without posting the documents, we just don't know. I find it slightly alarming that a college instructor would ask someone else - someone whom you are trying to convince, of all people - to do electronic grunt work for what is clearly a controversial study.

And who knows, maybe there's other information buried in those that you didn't see that a sympathetic individual (to your study) could bring to light.

I'm sure you have the time, as you already devoted weeks and months to this, so putting of the next project for a few days in support of this project shouldn't matter one way or the other; I'm sure you have the equipment, at Parkland or the IMC, and you have assistance with the tech expertise, as ML is clearly tech saavy.

 

On a side note, in the interest of transparency, since I have asked so much of you, here are my intentions, if the documents are posted online:

I intend to read through the reports myself, and then re-read your original post.

I intend to look for the trends you have indicated, and do the racial ratio math that you have done, and see how my interprettation and math compares to yours.

I intend to pick apart individual cases, looking for reasons that the reasonable person would or would not expect that SWAT force should have been used in that instance.

I intend to look at the wording of each warrant included in each report (surely each time SWAT is used, a warrant was issued - SWAT doesn't just show up on a whim for "reasonable suspicion.") and see if each cause meets a reasonable standard neccessitating the use of SWAT, specifically the use of SWAT for black vs white suspects.

I intend to look at spatial location of SWAT raids vs spatial location of violent crime trends vs spatial distributrion of race in CU, since you mentioned "see map," but provided no map.

Finally, I intend to look specifically at drug raids, but all cases as well, for suspected types and amounts of drugs, whether or not weapons were suspected, and reasons and type/number of weapons, to include possible use of violent animals, and whether or not suspects involved have a violent history, when possible.

That's my 70% plan, plain and clear. It's not a 100% plan, because I don't know what else I'll see at this point, but if looking at the cases leads me in other directions, then I may pursue those as well, or instead of, what I've stated above.

Oranges and Road Apples

Brian's article is journalism. It is not a research paper. If you want something like that, I suggest you subscribe to an academic journal, rather than trolling Indymedia.

Brian's sources are cited at least as well as the average newspaper article. He's pointed you in the direction you need to go if you'd prefer to do your own study.

As for grading, if I'd asked you to write a critique of this article as an assignment, what I've seen so far from you would have rated a C-, at best. You speak in vague generalities about your skepticism, but you offer no specific criticism of what you seem to find so disagreeable. Your attitude plumbs new depths of intellectual laziness.

As for whether or not any warrant offers "a reasonable standard neccessitating the use of SWAT, specifically the use of SWAT for black vs white suspects..." I doubt that is the case. Even overtly racist police officers cover their tracks better than that. Brian never asserted that this was something he found.

You obviously have no clue that racism exists and operates in our society beyond individual racism. Unfortunately, there is lots of evidence of systemic racism that is documented within the operations of the legal system. No one has to wear a pointy white hood for this to happen. It is also far more difficult to end, as some people, maybe even you, insist that when 90% of the victims of certain police tactics are African American that it doesn't represent the workings of racism unless there is hard proof on paper of the individual racism of the officers involved can be the only metric that is admissable in your court. While you have the right to hold such intelectually questionable ideas, such narrow-minded formulations of what racism is would be laughed out of any peer-reviwed academic study on racism in American society.

You've been pointed toward the sources. If you're too lazy to do the work, don't blame Brian.

Speaking of generalities...

...you can curse me all you want, call me lazy, whatever. Intimidation tactics and attempts at turning the tables to put the burden back on me won't do you any good. Call me a racist, ignorant, lazy, whatever. I made my intentions very clear, and I made the standards very clear - post the sources of the study.

It's hard to be specific in my skepticism when I have only Brian's filtered information to work with. I don't take Brian's word for anything: I've made that incredibly clear. You, however, are more than welcome to take or leave his information at his word: it's a free country, man.

Brian refuses to post his sources, therefore this entire charade is fiction until he makes an attempt to show otherwise. That is not to say that his story is untrue - just undocumented.

I'm more than happy to have a civil discussion about hard facts, but no facts have been posted (that aren't from a pinpoint secondary source, ie the original post), and every attempt I've made at getting facts only ends up with rhetorical heat and abuse from the peanut gallery.

Tell me, where are these sources I've been pointed to? In a locked cabinet in Brian's basement? Can you even show me the list of 63 case numbers? How about the map of 2006 CU SWAT raids? Or am I lazy because I don't want to commit to weeks of duplicating research so that only Brian and I can have a public online discussion on a level playing field, leaving everyone else in the intellectual dark?

Here's a start

Report Card on Police Raids

By Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice

 

Champaign County Sheriff’s Department

1/22/04            903 S. Lierman #36                  Urbana             B

1/30/04            1113 W. Hill                            Urbana             ?

2/4/04              412. S. Chanute St.                  Rantoul B

2/17/04            1118 Falcon Way #1                Rantoul B

3/26/04            1001 S. Lierman #81                Urbana             B

4/1/04              1001 S. Lierman #83                Urbana             B

4/2/04              1006 St. Andrews Circle          Rantoul ?

4/6/04              6 Rowena                                 Urbana             B

5/13/04            1001 S. Lierman #87                Urbana             B

7/23/04            701 Oda Dr.                            Mahamet          W

7/25/04            1302 N. Coler                          Urbana             B

7/30/04            1302 N. Coler                          Urbana             ?

12/6/04            806 N. Coler                            Urbana             ?

12/14/04          1106 Lanore                            Urbana             B

12/30/04          1301 E. Leverett Rd. 47           Champaign       W

 

1/11/05            2406 H. Prarie Green Dr.         Urbana             B

2/3/05              1065 Briarcliff Dr.                    Rantoul B

4/20/05            1942 CR 3000 North #16        Rantoul White/Hispanic

8/8/05              603 E. Florida                          Urbana             Black/Asian American

8/11/05            64 Piatt                                    Mahamet          ?

8/30/05            1003 S. Lierman #97                Urbana             B

9/13/05            808 N. Lincoln Ave.                 Urbana             B

9/23/05            1414 Eads                                Urbana             ?

9/24/05            210 ½ E. Hill                            Champaign       B

10/12/05          1301 E. Leverett #36 and #40  Somer              ?

11/10/05          1507 E. Washington St. #A11/#B17 Urbana    B

11/22/05          1003 S. Lierman Apt. 106        Urbana             B

12/22/05          1004 Carrol                             Urbana             B

 

1/18/06            2016 Vawter Apt. 3                 Urbana             B

4/23/06            #2 Dunbar Ct.                          Urbana             B

4/25/06            341 S. Lincoln              Rantoul B

4/25/06            417 S. Lincoln Apt. C              Rantoul B

5/24/06            1102 E. Colorado #113           Urbana             B

5/24/06            1806 S. Cottage Grove #311   Urbana             B

9/1/06              430 S. Steffler                          Rantoul B

9/21/06            2006 Vawter 36                       Urbana             B

9/28/06            912 A S. Lierman Ave.             Urbana             B

9/29/06            2709 B Dale Dr.                       Champaign       W

11/3/06            1121 Belair                              Rantoul B

12/15/06          2008 Vawter Apt. 306             Urbana             B

 

That's 40...

You're still missing 23 cases, if this is the list of places and dates of SWAT raids. Is there a reason these were posted and not the others? Are the others coming? Case numbers for each of those raids?

7 of those 40 have no demographic information - you indicated that for race, you looked at only 49 of the 63, fair enough. That's about all I can glean from what you just posted. Unfortunately, this is still just you typing - not that I think you're lying, but it's not a scanned PDF document.

You're right, its a start. I appreciate what you've got so far, but about all I can do with it is plug it into a geocoding mapping program and look at SWAT raids by race vs spatial demographic breakdown of the county, which I can get from US Census - and I have a feeling that isn't going to tell me much: I suspect that by and large, black suspects are apprehended in predominately black neighborhoods and likewise for other races, not a real shocker.

Unfortunately, this also doesn't say number (or race) of suspects planned for each raid, suspects/bystanders unexpected durnig the raid, suspected weapons vs weapons found, drugs/drug type suspected vs found, etc. It also doesn't tell me which raids were successful (in that they filled the intent of the warrant 100% with no collateral damage) or unsuccessful (did not apprehend suspects, evidence destroyed before/during raid, suspect/bystander/officer injuries or casualties, unintended property damage, etc).

Unfortunately, that's still not going to say a whole lot, since the specifics - the bulk text of the report - of each case is what I'm really interested in, and what provides context for the necessity of the use of SWAT at the micro, and ultimately the macro level.

Thought of the Day

"The fog of information can drive out knowledge."

Daniel Boorstin

That was pointless...

Is Mr. Boorstin trying to have an intelligent conversation in an intellectual vacuum?

Yes, being inundated with information can sometimes cause "forest for the trees" syndrome - but not in this case.

Exactly 63 cases were referenced as a set for the study. I would like to see exactly 63 cases' copies of the police reports scanned in and posted.

Interesting stats from "Overkill"

http://www.cato.org/raidmap/

Note that from 1985-2007, apparently the years that the CATO Institute has been following and researching botched SWAT raids across the country, CATO and the "Overkill"auther, Balko, noted NOT ONE SINGLE botched raid in Champaign County.

In fact, there were only 6 botched raids listed in that time period of 22 years in Illinois, 2 from St. Louis, 4 from Chicago.

Why the dissonance from Brian's work? Is Balko's research at CATO not accurate? Is Brian's inaccurate? Surely CATO would have called it a "botched raid" if a suicide was the direct result of SWAT actions, right? Or throwing old ladies to the ground? While Balko's work was not racially motivated, it was politically motivated for the same desired end state as Brian's work, so surely CATO would have counted it...what gives? They've got a pretty accurate count of the total number of raids each year nationwide, so you know they're watching, so ones with activity that falls outside of acceptable boundaries would certainly catch their attention, right?

And where are these documents I keep hearing about?

Why Trust Cato?

Maybe there's an issue with Cato's data?

Maybe Cato's definition of "botched raid" differs?

Why don't we hear you repeating your incessant and rather juvenile demands for documentation from Cato? 

Why do you trust Cato? 

Why do you think that anyone would drop everything else they're doing to satisfy the demands of an anonymous troll? 

Does your megalomania ever cause you social problems or interfere with your relationships with others? 

Who trusts CATO?

First, anonymous peanut gallery, what makes you think I'm the same anonymous troll from earlier in this thread? 

I just said there's a marked difference in the two studies in "botched raids" in Champaign county - in that CATO says there aren't any.

So who's wrong? And by the way, why IS a request for sources juvenille? If someone tells you that George Washington is in your family tree, wouldn't you like to at least take a look at his sources before you tell that someone that he's wrong, or that you tell your mother he's right?

I merely find it interesting that the only source actually listed and linked in Brian's work (which has absolutely nothing at all to do with the facts and figures he's spouting) actually differs significantly from what he has stated about the periphery of the subject.

The following is a list of reasons CATO has listed for raids being "botched" (to help clarify their definition for you):

Death of an Innocent, Death of a non-violent offender, Raid on an innocent suspect, Other examples of paramilitary police excess, Unneccessary raids on doctors and sick people.

Sounds like a SWAT-induced suicide should fit neatly into at least one of those categories, yes?

Botched Raids and the Champaign Police

What's really strange is that the Annonymous Demander of the Sources accepts the News-Gazette's accounts of crimes as complete fact and has never demanded to see the News-Gazette's sources. The botched raid of throwing the grandmother to the ground was reported by the News-Gazette. Why does the reality of this botched raid depend on the CATO institute including it in their study? Was the News-Gazette fabricating this incident with the grandmother too?

What the...

Did I ever say anything about the NG? I have no idea where they go their information from, nor do I care, and for the purposes of this thread, their credibility is irrelivent.

Brian referenced the article in the NG. If that information is incorrect in any way, then it wasn't a good source, and brian shouldn't have used it. If it is accurate information, then there isn't a problem, and the NG provided sound reporting. Either way, I have no interest at this time as to the accuracy of that particular story, because I never directly referenced it, only Brian's reference to the information that HE obtained from the NG.

Why, you may ask, should I hound Brian about his sources, but not The CATO institute or the News Gazette? Think about the question for a moment, reference my earlier post about him being an activist first and foremost, take a deep breath, and see if you can figure it out.

Cuz guess what: he's NOT an unbiased party, he makes no claim to be. Therefore, he necessarily must meet a higher journalistic and academic standard for every claim to Average Joe BECAUSE he is a biased party than, say, the CATO institute, an established and notable think-tank.

If I want to take CATO or the NG to task for shoddy, undocumented or suspect work, I'll take my complaints ABOUT them TO them, not Brian or IMC.

BTW, thanks for the new moniker, I think I'll use that from here on out...Anonymous Demander of the Sources, ADS. :)

Everyone Has Biased POV - You Should be More Honest about Yours

So we shouldn't listen to anyone who's an activist or who might have an opinion?

You're delusional if you think that's the way the world works. For instance, you're obviously an anti-Dolinar and pro-police activist or you wouldn't keep returning to Indymedia to float red herrings about Brian's reporting. Based on your own standards, we can now just ignore you.

Your assertions that the N-G or the Cato Institute are reliable, unbiased sources are simply laughable. Maybe everyone was born yesterday where you normally engage in discussions, but people here are not so gullible. Gullible is the kindest description of you trying to pass them off as unbiased.

The only reason you don't take up the inaccuracies at the N-G or at Cato is because you're comfortable with and most likely share their biases. Your blinders about racial disparities in the Illinois legal system similarly situates you as being an activist for white supremacy.

From ADS

Before you hurt yourself, reread my comments. Several times. And figure out just how many words you put in my mouth.

Congratulations, you've discovered that eveyone has a subjective point of view.

And enough with the ad hominem attacks, already. It's just an annoying smokescreen to cover a lack of anything substantive to talk about that really doesn't help anything...

 ...but it sure doesn't make the story any more documented, regardless of how much you insist this or that MUST be true because, well, because its TRUE! :D

Word

There's no sense being exact about something if you don't even know what you're talking about.

John von Neumann

Even the Police have a point of view

The Annonymous Demander of the Sources should remember that a point of view cannot be avoided. Define what is accurate. Probably the closest thing is a videotape, eh? But in Champaign County, police don't want videotaping of events on the street. Annonymous Demander of the Sources should remember the difference between Police Chief Finney's account of the Douglass Park incident last March, and the account given by witnesses who were there that night. The police and prosecutors have a point of view. Their accounts are as manipulative as the accused Dolinar.

Annonymous Demander of the Sources is showing their cards as a police advocate. In their reasons to analyze the data, they clearly seek justifications why police would target African Americans for SWAT raids to the point of even suggesting police are not targeting African Americans.

If anyone started the Ad Hominem attacks, it was Annonymous Demander of the Sources who has an obsession over Dolinar's writing.   

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Mr. Dolinar is doing exactly what Indymedia was designed to support.

Meanwhile, it's about time someone got down off their highhorse.

If you want a website that does sterile academic studies that demonstrate how dramatic racial disparities in the legal outcomes found in the American population in their encounters with the state have nothing to do with systemic racism, I'd suggest you start such a journal or write for the Cato Institute.

You don't like Brian. You don't like how he writes about something other than the happy faces that conventional journalism uncritically draws on our morally bankrupt legal system. You don't like how Indymedia questions authority. You don't like how it's possible for Brian to make a convincing argument without torturing to death some data. You've made your point. It looks like you're just a whiny geek with a bit too much obsession with "objectivity" and GIS databases and a lot of anxiety about how someone has a different POV about the police than you do. Rather disappointingly for someone who is so passionate about your POV you think it's actually objective, you've yet to make any sustained argument. That's nice safe ground for someone who claims someone else is off-base, but it's not convincing anyone of anything except how obsessed you are.

Appreciate the time...

...but since I've yet to see anything but sustained personal attacks against a simple request for data to back up a claim, I'll sign off now.

But it sure has been fun irritating the heck out of you all!

Thanks for letting me threadjack for a while, and playing right into it!

ADS

Postscript: "That's about as good as it gets"

 

One of two white neo-nazis, Kirk Peyton, who had his home raided by the Sheriff’s SWAT team on September 29, 2006 (06-CF-1561) has accepted a plea bargain. When Sheriff’s deputies entered Peyton’s home, they found an AK-47, a cache of other guns, ammunition, explosives, in addition to large amounts of marijuana and cocaine. They also found Nazi posters on the walls. Peyton was charged with armed violence, and possession with intent to sell 30-500 grams of marijuana and 15-100 grams of cocaine.

His partner, Jesse Maestas (2006-CM-1317), was charged with possession of an AK-47 without a FOID card, and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He accepted a plea bargain on the first charge and was given 12 months conditional discharge.

At a hearing on September 29, 2007, Peyton was offered a deal to drop the original three charges, and plead guilty to felony possession with intent to sell 1-5 grams of cocaine. The prosecutor was Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Clifton. Peyton was given two years probation. Additionally, he was sentenced to four days in jail, with 4 days credit which he served when he was arrested. This means no additional jail time for Peyton, despite his serious charges. I overheard Peyton complaining that he would have to pay $4,000 in court fines. But his lawyer, James Martinkus, told him “That’s about as good as it gets.”

.

They got off easy because they hired Jim Martinkus not because they're white

Just a quick question that

Just a quick question that is kinda "off topic" but falls in line with an earlier post...if coppers don't want to be videotaped, why do they all have videocameras in their squad cars???

impact on the community at large

I saw the people who were walking around with the huge guns, and this scared the heck out of me. Some of them were in camo, others were in sweatpants or jeans. At that point, traffic and the public were mixing in with these people. What impact does all this have on children
who see all this?

-karen medina

Practice SWAT Raids

In 2005, citizens from the north end came to the Champaign City Council chambers to complain of the routine practice of the police departments to conduct practice raids on unoccupied houses in residential neigbhorhoods in the black community. No announcements were given, no barriers were used to seal off the area. Just a sudden appearance of the "men in black". The chief complaint was your question: it was scaring children as police stormed around with guns, helmets, and no explanation for their actions. It was clearly a show of force for residents in the area- and was a clear message to the black community: "This is how the police will handling situations in this neighborhood."

Bad People in Society

I've followed this discussion closely.  One thing I think everyone is forgetting is that there are very bad people in this world that wish to do others great bodily harm.  There are laws and people (police) in place to deter and arrest these people when they break the law.  I have traveled to a Country where the police are truelly corrupt and are outright murderers.  We, in our nice safe and spoiled country, don't have to worry about these things. I'm not saying that there aren't corrupt and racist police officers in America, but in the grand scheme of things we have things pretty cushy.  If the bad people in this world come for you or your family, you will be asking, "Where are the police?"  

Apparently you accept the

Apparently you accept the premise supported by the statistical disparities of SWAT team deployments described above that indicate, for you and the police, that the "bad people in society" must live almost exclusively in certain neighborhoods largely populated by people of color. Your simplistic analysis speaks for itself by what you choose to ignore and accept.

Also, are "bad people in society" almost always drug users? Most of the people I know who use drugs, and this is mostly marijuana, are hardworking people who would rather not attract attention to themselves by engaging in any other sort of criminal behavior, besides using drugs. Admittedly, the few people I've known who have used cocaine tend to be an edgier crowd. Taken as a whole, even they really aren't "bad people." Rather, they make choices different than you or the white power structure might choose, but they are not what I'd call "bad people." Maybe "sick people" in the case of crack, but they are really not "bad people" deserving of an armored car driving up to their front door to disgorge heavily armed troops anonymously clad in armor.

I've been to a number of countries that have corrupt police forces (besides many cities in the U.S. and certain states.) The one common theme is that these police are militarized, which is exactly what SWAT teams are -- miltarized police. I know this is something of a slippery slope argument, but American history (and the experience of other nations) is that when the police confuse themselves with an internal army, that is when things really start to go downhill.

It doesn't help that the police in this country, indeed specifically in this county, are increasingly NOT subject to the ideals of transparency and openness that are the hallmarks of policing in a democracy. I think your argument is shot through with naive ignorance at best. Certainly it incorporates the idea that the public should just "support the troops" (another indication of how miltarized our police are becoming, even beyond the extremes represented by the SWAT mentality.) And it ignores the fact that the most dangerous situation police most often encounter are domestic disturbances. Should we send SWAT teams to every domestic disturbance, using your logic? I don't think so.

Finally, is our country "safe"? It's clear that certain neighborhoods are "safe" from regular visits by the SWAT team. It's "safe" for those who abuse their workers and rip-off consumers. It's "safe" for politicians to shred the Constitution, start wars based on lies, and for police to abuse the public at their whim, even if that usually doesn't mean outright murder (although torture is certainly tolerated at both the national and the local levels.) All this, while those who live in the wrong neighborhood don't feel safe from the poverty and disfunction our society tolerates in the name of making our nation "safe" for capitalism to exploit us, sending SWAT teams in as very public reminders of who is in charge and who is powerless, even when it's just called "training.".

Every society needs police. But we really don't need the vast growth of SWAT teams. A free people should not have to fear the government. A government should fear its people. The massive proliferation of SWAT teams militarizes our police, pushing them much closer to the corrupt and murderous police you say you've seen elsewhere and, I presume, would rather not have here. You really ought to think harder about the unintended consequences of such trends. Or better yet, you should give some thought to how to reverse such trends, if you really would prefer not to live in a society shaped as much by its secret police as it is by its legislators.

Just Once.....

....I would like the defenders of the status quo to define what they mean by "bad person". They clearly operate in this paranoid world of having to sort out who's good and who's bad. More than any other institution, the criminal justice system lays claim to possessing the psychic powers to determine who deserves to be destroyed by gun, taser, or jail cell; and who deserves to be forgiven and sent on their way. So to help with the definition, could someone answer who you think desereves to be sent to prison?

In the law, there exists no

In the law, there exists no definition of "bad person", only defined behavior that is held by a majority of society that is deemed illegal.  The fact is, in your world, you might define illegal behavior differently, however, that does not make the behavior any less illegal as defined by the majority of society.  If your world held the majority view, then those acts defined by you, would not be illegal, but you don't.  Continue to fight for and change the attitudes of the masses and your view might become the rule.  Until then, the "status quo" is the rule of law until you have the numbers to change it.  Good luck in your endeavours.

Some Thoughts on the Holier than Thou Mindset

The majority of people don't go around trying to define who "bad people" are. Those who do that primarily are trying to position themselves as morally superior to others. All I can say is "judge not, least ye be judged."

As for the relationship between majorities and the law, that is so often just crap. Most Americans want us out of Iraq, but the president stubbornly insists on funding a continuation of his war of choice. Sadly, most Democrats are all too willing to accommodate him, despite the popular majority. The laws funding the war are clearly not consonant with what the majority wants.

Up above this story on the website is one on medical cannabis. It cites consistent majorities in polls over the years that clearly indicate that a majority of Americans think it's stupid, unethical, and immoral to prosecute patients whose conditions are helped by cannabis. Those majorities have been in place for decades, but where's the law? It's still stuck back in the Dark Ages...no, let me correct that. In the Dark Ages marijuana was legal. But my point stands, which is that your point about the law enjoying majority support as the reason we should support it and obey it is so often nothing but pompous bullshit.

The law is not nearly so black and white as you misleadingly claim. That is the world we both live in. Quit trying to make it into something it clearly is not. The law is often unethical and immoral. In cases like those I've described and so many others, it's all about the power of a small minority to impose their delusions of grandeur and wholesomeness on the rest of us -- the majority.

Some Are Too Naive to Learn From History

There is something to be said about the fact that oftentimes the majority are too naive or stupid to learn from history. Consider the following and then substitute "drug war" for "Prohibition":
>>>>>

How zealots made America a nation of lawbreakers.

By Jonathan Yardley
Sunday, April 8, 2007; BW15

DRY MANHATTAN

Prohibition in New York City

By Michael A. Lerner

Harvard Univ. 351 pp. $28.95

In this exceptionally interesting book, Michael A. Lerner accurately observes that "there was much more at stake in Prohibition than booze." It was "the most ambitious attempt to legislate morality and personal behavior in the history of the modern United States," the "defining issue of the 1920s, one that measured the moral and political values of the nation while shaping the everyday lives of millions of Americans." It affected the entire nation but nowhere more than New York, the chief target of the prohibitionist zealots because they loathed its rich mix of ethnic groups, many of them new to the United States, and feared its "wet ways as a contaminating influence" on the rest of the country.

After reading Dry Manhattan, one can only wonder that, in the more than seven decades since Prohibition ended in December 1933 with the adoption of the 21st Amendment, no one else has thought to write the history of the Noble Experiment in New York. Lerner more than makes up for the lost time. He is associate dean of studies at the Bard High School Early College, an imaginative public/private educational undertaking in Manhattan, and he clearly knows New York well. He also clearly appreciates all the aspects of New York that the drys so deeply dreaded: its Catholics, Jews and Eastern Europeans, its saloons, its theaters and chic restaurants, its tolerance of difference and dissent, its sheer urbanity. He turns out to be exactly the right person to tell this story, and he tells it very well.

Prohibition came into effect in 1920 -- the 18th Amendment authorizing it had been approved a year earlier -- after a vigorous two-decade campaign by the Anti-Saloon League, which in its zealotry and hardball tactics was a forebear of today's religious right. Its triumph "was less an expression of populist will than the product of political opportunism and a generation's worth of aggressive lobbying," but its timing was perfect. It came just as the Progressive movement was at its zenith and reform was in the air; even in New York, "the dry movement appealed to urban reformers who shared the league's desire to bring order and sobriety to American cities," and initially there was more support for Prohibition in the city than one might imagine.

That support lasted for about five minutes. Immediately upon the beginning of Prohibition, it "seemed to inspire New Yorkers not to change their ways to comply with the demands of the dry lobby, but rather to devise new, more creative ways to evade the law." It wasn't just that New Yorkers (and tourists) wanted their drinks, but that people turned to illicit drinking as a way to assert their individual rights and to thumb their noses at the drys. The Anti-Saloon League scarcely helped its cause by appointing William Anderson, formerly its man in Maryland, to run its New York operation. He was able and hard-working, but he also was motor-mouthed, opinionated and bigoted. Before his reign ended in disgrace in 1924 -- "he was convicted of forgery and sentenced to two years in prison" -- he managed to offend just about everyone in the city, including those who initially had been willing to give Prohibition the benefit of the doubt.

The Anti-Saloon League failed to think through the consequences of its policy. It was all well and good to make booze illegal, but not a moment's planning seems to have been done for what came next. Enforcing Prohibition was left to a patchwork of federal, state and local authorities, many of whom had no enthusiasm for the task -- this was especially true of New York's police -- and many of whom quickly got involved in "staggering cases of corruption and abuse of power." The Volstead Act, belatedly passed by Congress in 1919 after the approval of Prohibition, was draconian, and ordinary citizens soon were horrified as they came to grasp the infringements on civil liberties that it blithely mandated. In New York, drinking didn't decline, it increased rapidly:

"As quickly as the dry fashion had swept the nation, William Anderson's vision of a dry New York had collapsed. There would be no more celebrations and no further assertions that Prohibition was ushering in 'a new era of clean thinking and clean living.' Rather than uniting New Yorkers behind a single moral agenda, as Anderson and his fellow drys had hoped, the imposition of Prohibition on the city had polarized New York between irreconcilable dry and wet camps, one bent on enforcing Prohibition at any cost and the other set on rebelling against it."

The mood of the rebellion was at once defiant, merry and desperate. People started drinking more because they feared the well might run dry, and much of what they drank was almost literally poisonous. The federal government, in one of the most certifiably insane decisions it has ever made -- which is saying something -- "added poison to industrial alcohol to 'denature' it and prevent it from being diverted for human consumption," blithely ignoring the obvious fact that "bootlegging operations routinely used denatured alcohol anyway," passing along the lethal booze to their customers. That was in the early 1920s. In 1928, the feds outdid themselves, "doubling the amount of poison . . . added to industrial alcohol," leaving New Yorkers "wondering to what lengths the government would go next in its efforts to enforce a decade-long failed experiment."

Prohibition, of course, coincided with the Jazz Age, and the rebellious mood it engendered fed the rebellion of the young in particular but, in New York, just about everybody. The liberalizing effects it had throughout society -- precisely the opposite of what the drys had in mind -- included drastic changes in the social and political behavior of women. The flapper -- knocking back bootleg gin, her hair pertly bobbed, her skirt short and her chest flattened -- became the most prominent symbol of the new woman, but what was more important was "the transformation of the relationship between women and the American temperance crusade, as women moved from the traditional role of moral guardians and reformers in service to the dry lobby to rebels against the double standards of Victorian morality."

In that regard, Lerner performs the considerable service of rescuing from the dustbin of history a woman who was pivotal in leading the country out of Prohibition. Pauline Sabin, a prominent, wealthy New Yorker and initially a supporter of Prohibition, was horrified by its unintended consequences and ended up forming, in 1929, the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform. She turned out to possess "political savvy and [an] ability to learn from the mistakes of her predecessors, both wet and dry." She "took great pains to reach out to middle-class and working-class women in the belief that a broad coalition of women would pose the greatest challenge to the dry lobby." Lerner says that she, along with Al Smith, the former governor of New York, did more to bring Prohibition down than anyone else, for which the nation owes her everlasting gratitude.

Gratitude, of course, that we now can choose to drink -- or not to drink -- as free individuals, but also gratitude because Prohibition was an utter disaster. It did not have a single redeeming quality. The incidence of alcoholism rose sharply in New York and elsewhere, mocking the law became a national pastime, Americans were pitted against each other with a bitterness rare in the country's history, and -- the one subject to which Lerner pays insufficient attention -- organized crime gained a stranglehold on the nation. It isn't enough to say, as Lerner does, that organized crime came into being well before Prohibition. Prohibition gave it opportunities it had never before had, and it seized them with calamitous and permanent effects.

That, though, is a cavil. Dry Manhattan is in all important respects exemplary, a singularly useful and revealing contribution to our understanding of a time from which the nation probably never will recover.

Copyright 2007 The Washington Post

Then consider that being right is often more important than obeying the law. Some famous American lawbreakers:
George Washington
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Franklin
the rest of founding fathers (and mothers)
Henry David Thoreau
Eugene Debs
Dorothy Day
Walter Reuther
Rosa Parks
Martin Luther King
Phillip Berrigan
thousands in Seattle who demonstrated against the World Trade Organization and NAFTA in 1999
Cindy Sheehan

Bootleggers and Bandits

Does anyone know if Joseph Kennedy, father of the future president, was bootlegging liquor by way of Detroit back in the day? There were many prominent fortunes made in the bootlegging industry, correct?

It seems 75 years later we are deadlocked into a hypocritical position because lawyers, police officers, jail guards, courthouse administrative staff, prison guards, and ammo dealers all have a job depending on the continuation of chasing down Cornelius Crackhead for not having alcohol and cigarettes in his pocket. Meanwhile, the sororities and fraternities enjoy another line of the sweet powder....

So after the dust settles

So after the dust settles again after 50 more years of the system remaining the "status quo", and neither parties, including progressives have accomplished anything but their thin lipped, talking point agenda, what  is your answer.  Until the majority wants change, votes change, and makes change, there remains no change. Washington had the majority of the country behind him, and believe it or not, King did as well because the country knew change needed to be made.  Unfortunately following the countries "demands" by quoting poor statisical survey numbers only causes more angst for those of you who beleive in this tripe.  The reality is, and you know it and choose not  to accept it, the war will end when the majority decides it is over.  The have not made this decision yet.  Bush cannot continue to run a war without the support of a Democratic congress and he has that support.  Progressives cannot support a candidate until they are able to increase their numbers to make a difference and even if they do, these candidates will continue the status quo until they are the majority, which will likely never occur.  The majority thinks a certain way, is focused, and is flexible when necessary.  They read the pulse and will give when it appears that it might be in their best interest.  But they rarely lose the big battles because they think ahead.  Progressives live in the present, wish they had more attention and numbers, insult the majority middle because they are not "progressive thinker" and always get left in the dust of the Dem and GOP.  Learn from these parties, find common ground with the average American and you can take over this Country.  Without the majority you are voices that are heard, but like living next to an airport effentually ignored.

 

Getting Back to the Police Issue

Those that label other people as "Bad People" are not trying to position themselves in a morally superior position.  Rather they have seen the underbelly of society and the pain, blood, dead children, and sorrow that these "Bad People" have inflicted.  Until you are face to face with someone that is trying to kill you for your money, property, etc., you have no idea what this world is really like. It is very easy to sit in our comfortable coffee shops and trendy places and type on our WIFI and talk about how bad the "Man" is.  The "Man" is bad, without a doubt.  The "Bad People" are worse.  I used to think like a majority of the people that read and write on this site, until my eyes were violently opened.  The Police are at least trying to stop these "Bad People", what are you doing? 

Your Simplistic Dichotomy Crumbles...

As you continue to clumsily reply, your simplistic dichotomy continues to crumble at the hands of your own juvenile logic.

First, you divided society into the good and the bad. Now you set up the premise that society is actually divided into the good, the "bad police" and the "bad people." This presumes that anyone, especially the police, can properly and believably sort out who is deserving of jail and who is not. I guess it's now the bad police who can do that in your eyes. I think you watch too many movies, which always seem to manage a neat resolution from complex plots in about two hours. If bad is evil and evil should be rejected, why embrace evil in defense of your prejudices? Because you're a hypocrite, I guess.

How can anyone be sure that the "good" are really good? Heck, Illinois voters make that mistake over and over, electing those who claim to be good, then watching those bums rip us off again and again. And only a handful see jail, although it's certain that this small gang is nowhere near all of the bad who exist among the political class.

Then the same bunch of liars and thieves make the rules that the rest of us are supposed to be accountable to. Do you really believe (I only keep asking these rhetorical, but extremely pertinent questions, again and again because _you_ - like the typical Illinois politrickian -- are so good at _ignoring_ questions you really ought to answer in order to keep what little remaining credibility you have) that this pack of liars and thieves can make good law, every time. Or that they even care about how crappy a job they do about imposing their best efforts at getting re-elected on the rest of us. Take the drug war, for instance. OK, I know you don't care about those injustices, because you've already repeatedly ignored in a hideously uncaring way those injustices, which statistics show are unjustly imposed in racially biased ways.

Your continued hold onto the tiny chip of wood keeping you afloat, that somehow good and bad people can be sorted out by bad cops (never mind the fact that at least some cops are good and try to do the best they can in working for a system even they realize is bad) is laughable, unfair, and coddles as many criminals in blue as it condemns those who are civilians, both truly bad ones and those just making bad choices. Or are you saying that making a bad choice always means that the person is bad?

That's not very Christian of you (not that Christians have any lock on morality), let alone supporting the laughable notion that cops are unambiguously able to sort the good from the bad.

But you've surely qualified to run for public office in Illinois, given that you disclaim any effort at moral superiority, when that is obviously what you are doing, right in front of our eyes.

So you claim to have had your "eyes...violently opened"? The lack of detail there makes me think you're just toying with the least effort you can make to come up with something, anything, to make yourself seem believable. If someone did violence to another, they deserve a trip to the pokey. But what about so many others, who do no violence toward others and who, at most, need medical treatment, not jail bars? Most of all, in order to get this thread you've been clumsily trying to threadjack back on track, how many of them really need a SWAT team to deal with them? Very, very few.

The point of the endless happy news segments and "reality shows" about "heroic" SWAT teams is to intimidate far more than it is to protect. The fact that whatever "protection" and intimidation is achieved is so obviously and directly targeted against certain parts of our society and almost never at others is another question that you've preferred not to address.

I think raising the question of whether these resources could be more productively used elsewhere is an important one and I thank Brian for raising it. Considering the crap that certain obsessed trolls hand out to him over this socially relevant question shows he is at least as brave as any cop dressed in black armor wielding an assault rifle for the cameras.

BTW, the coffee in coffee shops is beyond my budget and I don't own a laptop. I'm willing to concede that life is complex enough that there are good cops, as well as bad. Heck, I'll bet there's even a few honest politicians in Illinois. But I would never have an inflated enough ego to assert that I can be sure that the good and the bad in whatever populations can be sorted out like you seem to think and the we should just trust that this is so. In fact, it sounds a lot like a "just so" story. Your mindset is right out of comic book and your argument more fictional than factual. Life is not that simple, but you seem to be.

How many "bad people" are there?

"Until you are face to face with someone that is trying to kill you for your money, property, etc., you have no idea what this world is really like."

So then, how many armed robberies did Champaign-Urbana have in 2006? 2005? 2004? How many rapes in 2006? 2005? 2004? How many murders?

And why did Robert Arnette get probation for having sex with kids under 17 (his own kids)? Mr. Arnette was given probation in February 2007 by Judge Difanis (there's that magical psychic power of the criminal justice system again- determining a person pleading guilty to sex with a minor is going to be a "good" person from now on.) and now Mr. Arnette is accused of killing his wife in May of 2007. What happened here?  

Sticks and Stones

      Look,  I don't have any allusions that anything I might write and anything that you might write on this forum is actually going to change anyone's point of view on this topic.  Your resorting to name calling does nothing for this community, it only weakens your credibility.  Your broad generalization of me as some right wing, Christian, political wantabee is completely off target.  I am neither a Christian, nor a Repulican, nor a cave man that sits in front of the TV all day being fed one point of view or another.  I believe nothing I read or see because there are no truely impartial media sources out there, save for maybe NPR. 

     I will address specifically your comment on my having my "eyes violently opened" because you are completely wrong.  In 2003, our illustrious government, ie Bush and Cheney, decided to send me and my National Guard Unit to die in Baghdad, Iraq. I have personally been screwed over by our government and our politicians.  I used to be a Repulican before I went over there.  I'd never been exposed to the criminal element in a society before.  I'm not talking about pot smokers, but real criminals. There was a power vacuum after the Iraqi Government collapsed and the Police force was disbanded. Those in that society that were of the criminal element preyed on their fellow citizens with much vigor. It was my job to try and stop them.  I have seen what happens when there are no police to police, human nature takes over and bad things happen to good people.  Our politicians, on both sides of the isle, suck and are not to be trusted. 

      Getting back to the issue, without seeing each and every case that is referenced in this article, I cannot make an informed decision as to why the SWAT team was used in each case.  There has to be a reason why SWAT was called in: was the suspect a violent offender with a history of violence, ex convict,  etc.  SWAT is not just called in because someone is a minority, there has to be some other underlying factor that triggers their use, other wise, there would be 600 cases here instead of 63.  

     In every city, there is crime. In most major cities there are areas that have a lot of criminal activity going on.  Those areas turn our to be places where there are a high concentration of minorities.  We don't need to get into the social and economic issues that have landed those folks into that particular environment, that's not the topic we're discussing.  Life is hard and it is a string of choices.  We are all responsible for our own actions.  If SWAT is kicking in your door, maybe you need to think what choices you made in life that brought you to that point.  I would personally like to see more treatment options (mental and social) for those offenders when they are starting off their criminal career at a young age.   

     In regards to the comment that Brian is as brave as a cop, hogwash.  I would like to know how the two are even remotely related, as a police officer has to wonder if he or she is going to be killed everyday when they go to work.  I don't think writer's block or papercuts qualify as a dangerous work environment. 

     Isn't this discussion great?  It's what makes this Country a great place. 

Regards.

    

Policing the World and the 'Hood

I think I characterized your POV as conservative. One can be a Democrat and still be conservative, although this is a bit contradictory at times. My idea of Christainity is rather broad and made the usual and often wrong assumption that most in this country are Christian or are at least familiar with its influence on the political landscape. My observation was accurate, at least in terms of how "judge not, least ye shall be judged" is so often ignored by those who claim they are Christian. Even if you're not, it is still a wise observation to consider about POVs that you might disagree with. I tried reall hard to not do that, but alas, like many, I still sin at times and will try to do better.

Thanks for your service. I find it tragic that our military has been so mis-used. I regularly come in contact with them and don't make assumptions that they're universally supportive of this mess. There is lots of evidence that is not the case.

It's good to see that you're open-minded enough to now distinguish between smoking marijuana, for whatever reason, and criminality. It is unfortuante that our legal system is so far incapable, at least in Illinois, of making this simple and rather obvious observation.

This failure to distinguish between the lies supported by law about some people and what real crime is is at the root of much of the drug war, just like the lies about WMDs were at the root of the Iraq War. That and the notion that somehow the US should police the world and impose its will on other nations, when Americans would clearly resist in ways similar to the way many Iraqis resist the occupation if it happened to us. I don't think we'd see suicide bombers here or Al-Qaeda, but any invader of the US would face pretty much the rest of what you faced -- and most Americans would consider those opposing the invader to be patriots.

In similar ways, the drug war imposes a narrow, ignorant, and unjustifiable POV on large sectors of our population. In the case of medical cannabis, the drug war loses all credibility and is completely immoral and unethical.

I've seen people writing on IMC call for ethical policing, policing within reasonable and achievable goals, police being expected to obey the law like other citizens and to face penalties like others when they torture and abuse the public. I've seen no one call for the abolition of police.There have been plenty of calls for reform. How anyone comes to the conclusion that calls for reffroming the police into calls for their abolition is beyond me. Many people have serious, long-standing concerns about the way some police conduct themselves and how the legal system overlooks such abusive practices. Maybe you could explain why you believe that is the case with others writing on this website, because I sure don't see that as the message.

As for needing to see in detail each case to draw some conclusions about the justification for the use of SWAT teams, I don't think anyone needs that in order to conclude that there is something wrong with the policy on use of SWAT teams. I'm sure there are cases where a SWAT team is needed, but I strongly suspect from the documented racial disparities that it is often the case that SWAT teams are overused. Part of that overuse is no doubt the typical bureaucratic cover-you-ass on budget justification. If they don't get used enough, people who don't even care about the racial disparities might start to question why we're spending all the resources on SWAT that could be better used elsewhere. That is a very thoughtful question and it should be asked more than it is. That is why you see it here, because it isn't asked often enough elsewhere in the media.

The recent scandal about Blackwater corrupting the UI Police Training Institute leadership points out another issue. Far too often, we are seeing the militarization of the police. It's bad enough when the US mistakenly thinks it has permission to police the world, as we're finding out in Iraq. It's also a problem when police think they need to militarize their tactics in the US.

Summing up, the drug war is the domestic equivalent to the failed war in Iraq. It can't be won, it wastes more lives than it saves, and it's a wasteful drain on resources that could be better used elsewhere. SWAT teams are a big part of that waste, they've been misused, and they are a poor substitute for wise policing in many cases where they're deployed. None of my critique asserts or implies that the police themselves should be abolished. They have a role to play in society and, yes, many times they are needed. It would be good if we concentrated the use of police on those who commit violence against life and property. For the most part, the drug war is a misapplication of police resources. Prohibition doesn't work any better now than it did in the 1920s. Many police now realize that, as the link I provided above to Law Enforcement Professionals Against Prohibition demonstrates.

Tell you what. Don't make any cheap shot assumptions about what is said by those contributing to IMC and I'll try not to do the same to you.

What is a "Crime"?

Anon 1:25 p.m.'s excellent post really underscores the need to define what we mean by "crime" and prioritize what behaviors we really need to intervene on. For example, Unit 4 has 300 high schoolers dropping out of high school every year. Are we as a community really focused on eradicating that behavior? Can dropping out of school really be solved with a police officer in the hallways? 

When you see CNN, Court TV, the video games, the D.A.R.E. program,  the Crimestoppers Wanted Fugitive portraits, the constant deluge from the publicity departments of all 4 police departments, the News-Gazette's constant recounting of every salicious detail from crime reports fed to it by the police; when you are barraged with this constant crime narrative, we teach our children and ourselves that all disputes can be settled with heavily-armed men and women who can go in and gain compliance with a taser- and I would submit we also teach ourselves how to be criminals since we need those too. You can't have good guys without some bad guys to chase. Looking at the entertainment industries, you see the manufacturing of the criminal mind-set. I walk into the toy isle this Christmas and I can't count how many forms of guns are being sold. How many toys involve war and combat? We as a community have been taught and now believe in the Good Cop Protect Us From Boogie Man story. When push comes to shove, we dial 9-1-1.

And maybe we should. In the unprioritized world of crime fighting, we ignore some obvious bullshit that real men and women of valor should be outraged by. Over 3,000 unduplicated cases of domestic violence against our women occur each year in this county. Campus has over 50 rapes a year. Where is our resolve to address such issues as these?

I would like to have no police too. But I think there's 5% of us, who are too drunk, too high, too mean, and too selfish to be allowed outside the monastary on some days. I suspect when humans get out of whack, and boy do they ever, we still need a group of responsible adults to come in and restore safety and peace; and an asylum system that quarantines a violent person for real re-education. Anon 1:25's very real experience with bandits who go unchecked cannot be dismissed. Some people will experiment with evil. I don't think, however, the delusion that law enforcement can prevent these experimentations is realistic. And I certainly don't see the connection between stopping violence with locking up for decades with some very violent people an 18 year-old minority kid because he sold to a willing customer an intoxicant like Scott Cochrane does.

The propaganda that anyone who breaks the law is a criminal and therefore should go to jail is untrue and impossible to carry out.  

Anon 1:25's call for looking at the strategies, the planning notes, the criminal backgrounds of each suspect, the reason for the search and arrest warrants, the information that law enforcement were operating under, for each and every one of these SWAT raids would be an excellent idea. Perhaps we could interview the participants of the SWAT raids, and interview the people who were raided upon and arrive at some evaluation of the whole SWAT tactic. Is it effective? Is it worth it? Can we create some community-wide-agreed-upon policies to govern when we use a SWAT team?  

The problem is law enforcement does not want to provide that information nor have that discussion lest their decisions be challenged by the rest of the community. Local law enforcement continues to shut out the public from its day to day operations and then wonders why we wouldn't let them buy tasers for the Champaign Police department. (though I'm sure they'll figure a way around that soon) The pre-dominant attitude of the police and state's attorney's office has been they just want the job and the money and for the public to shut up and trust them, they know what they are doing.  

The Iraq War, the Drug War, and our current criminal justice system are examples that we are allowing policy makers to not abide by a sincere vision for healing, and a sincere desire to create safe places to live for everybody. 

 

 

Throwing Away the Key on a Failed Justice System

There's a report that is about to scroll off the Global News that would really contribute to this discussion. It's "Unlocking America" and it contains an enormous amount of common sense derived from facts, figures and analysis of the failure of imprisonment to deliver a better society.

Since the Nixon era, conservatives have argued that "getting tough on crime" by imprisoning ever-higher numbers of parts of our population is the only solution to crime. In fact, this trend has bloated into a monstrosity that actually breeds crime and fails to rehabilitate even in the cases where it argues that is its goal. In fact, police and prisons are the the only jobs program that conservatives support. The result is a self-perpetuating system we can no longer afford, either economically or socially.

Among the most stunning statistics is one that supports the report's conclusion that we could cut the prison population in half. Currently, the nation's prisons hold over two million men and women. If we imprisoned ALL at the same rate we imprison whites, it would cut the prison population to less than a million. The simple fact is that it is the stunning rates of over-imprisonment of black and brown people which is driving the mess politicians have made. If we only enforced this one fundamental bit of equity, it would be great help, but there is much more than that in "Unlocking America" that provides ways to bring about greater justice and personal security in our society.

Thank you

Thanks, Brian and the intelligent commentators here for all you do!

facts are nice

I agree with the anonymous dissenter here. I can't see how you expect to be taken seriously without some SHRED of evidence. On the face of it, I don't doubt the conclusions the author has made, but I would hardly call it journalism, except in the Jason Blair sense of the word, without supporting facts. To attack the guy asking the author if he could post evidence, point out, source, find it on lexis nexis whatever, is pretty bloody stupid as he is just trying to make your otherwise thought provoking article more than just imaginative tripe. I didn't post anonymously, I used my real email address so feel free to attack me anonymously as well I guess, but if you want to be taken seriously outside of the echo chamber of your like minded friends, step up to the plate and deliver.

If Facts Are So "Nice," Why Avoid Them Yourself?

There's plenty of evidence offered in the original article. Pick up the News-Gazette on any given day and you'll likely encounter more.

You'd just prefer that others ignore the facts that were cited. That's lame and hypocritical, especially when all you offer is your OPINION about things, rather than any substantive evidence of your own. It very well could be because you can't offer any evidence that the facts cited are incorrect.

By continued studious avoidance of addressing the facts offered, it does smell a lot like tripe left in the sun on a warm day, though.

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