Murders Down But Police Aren’t Solving More

Clueless CopI remember when I sent out my first book to a publisher. I got a very positive letter back, but the publisher took exception to my referring to police officers as stupid. She pointed out that a lot of police officers read their books and that she knew a lot of them and they weren’t stupid. I ended up just writing a different book for her. And I didn’t argue the point. I had only written for small weekly newspapers and had not developed the charming pugnacious personality that is on display each day seen here at Frankly Curious. Plus, I really wanted to publish my first book.

There are a few points to note. First, I never wrote that police officers were stupid. I wrote that they “are not the brightest lights in the house and their lack of knowledge could act as a damning indictment of our educational system.” I went on to relate an example of an officer not knowing what the word “courtesy” as in “courtesy of the American Legion.” I don’t think that police officers are stupid and I never had. But compared to me, they are. Compared to most of the people I know they are. But that doesn’t make them bad at their jobs.

Indeed, courts have concluded that it is okay to not hire an officer because they are too smart. The truth is that police work is incredibly boring. There is a high attrition rate among them. Actual tests of police officers find that they are of average intelligence and that’s just fine with me. My problem with the police is that they tend to be bullies and tribalistic and self-impressed. What they should be is damned grateful that given their limited skills and abilities they have an easy job that pays really well. Instead, they go around acting like they couldn’t be replaced, which just isn’t the case at all.

I think the issue is quite simple. Roughly two-thirds of murders are easy. A great many of them are something along the lines of things got out of control at a family gathering and son shot uncle. There is no investigation required.

I was very interested in a recent article at Vox by Dara Lind, Police Are Solving a Lot Fewer Murder Cases Than They Used To. But that’s not a great headline. What’s really going on is that since 1990, the murder rate has been cut roughly in half. Yet the percentage of these murders that ended in arrest (Not conviction!) has been flat at roughly 65%. So if you murder someone, you you have a one in three chance of never being arrested.

Lind presents this as the effect of people not trusting the police. Despite all our new technologies and all the super keen stuff you see on cop shows on television, most murderers are caught because someone saw the murder — or something else close enough. (This is also the reason that a lot of people go to prison for murders they didn’t commit, but we’ll leave that for another time.) People in high crime areas don’t trust the police because instead of helping, they murder people when called to deal with depressed teens. I don’t know. I suspect that people unwilling to talk to the police is a part of the problem. But it’s a very small part of the problem.

I think the issue is quite simple. Roughly two-thirds of murders are easy. A great many of them are something along the lines of things got out of control at a family gathering and son shot uncle. There is no investigation required. In one-third of the cases, it isn’t clear. It is not the case that, “They know who did it…” I’ve never met a police officer who didn’t claim to know that whoever he arrested was guilty. And even after DNA evidence exonerates someone, those same officers still “know” that the arrestee was guilty.

There are two critical things about the police that make them so bad at cracking cases: their middling intelligence and their general laziness. Have you ever watched one of those shows where some police officer cracks a case years later? First, those represent exceptions. Second, the “brilliant insight” that cracks the case are always obvious. For example, in one case, a guy murdered his wife and then left the air conditioner on at full blast to screw up the the determination of time of death. That’s pretty clever. But it took the officers forever to figure it out. It doesn’t take Monk to figure this stuff out — just someone with a strong work ethic and an IQ over 104.

Add to this that the police don’t really care. Most of the people who are murdered are poor. There’s no pressure on them to solve the cases. It’s certainly true that if the police didn’t act like such jerks and make everyone hate them, it would be easier to do their jobs. But it’s going to take a lot more than this to solve more murders. And I don’t see the police moving toward fixing their jerk problem.

Terrorists in Oregon Occupy Malheur NWR Headquarters

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquartersMy country ’tis of thee. That’s what I was taught in grammar school: our country. But there are are those so filled with privilege and hatred that they think the United States is whatever they say it is: their country ’tis of them. And the roving gang of terrorists who sport their pocket Constitutions and took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Oregon yesterday should be captured, tried for treason, and spend the rest of their lives in a federal penitentiary.

The main men involved are Ammon and Ryan Bundy (sons of Cliven “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro” Bundy), Jon Ritzheimer, Blaine Cooper, and Ryan Payne. But they are only men in a biological sense. In the truest sense of the word, these are boys who want to play Revolutionary War. They like to pretend that they are living under tyranny. Rather than prison, they would be better punished by having to live the rest of their lives in Saudi Arabia.

And they aren’t locals. This isn’t their fight. They just rove the nation looking for fights to get into. And they are often unwelcome, as they are in this case. That’s one of the sad things about this. The Bundy Traitors are making this all about them. But the cause that underlies this is at least somewhat just.

According to The Oregonian, the local people are mostly like me: they think that the Hammonds are getting a raw deal, but that the terrorists at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are extremists.

Back in 2012, Dwight Hammond and his son Steven were found guilty of arson. They twice set fire to federal land. According to the Hammonds, they did this to stop invasive species from encroaching on their land. I don’t believe that. Not for a minute. But even if it were true, it is wrong. If I have a tree that is growing onto your land, that doesn’t give you the right to set my yard on fire.

But the Hammonds were found guilty and they were punished with one year in prison and $400,000 in restitution (which they paid). But then federal prosecutors found that they could apply the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, and so now the Hammonds are supposed to spend up to five extra years in prison. I hate this nonsense. I hated when civil trials started being a big thing when criminal trials failed. There are all these squirrely ways to get around our justice system when we don’t think it works. The Hammonds did something wrong, they were punished, that should be the end of it.

Of course, the roving gang of terrorists isn’t really interested in this case. They just think that federal land should be theirs to use. The Hammond lawyer has been very clear that the Bundy boondoggle does not speak for his clients. And that’s understandable because the Hammonds are no doubt trying to extricate themselves from this legal issue; they aren’t trying to start the second Revolutionary War.

According to The Oregonian, the local people are mostly like me: they think that the Hammonds are getting a raw deal, but that the terrorists at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are extremists. Of course, no one is calling them terrorists because, you know, they are white. One of the terrorists is an ex-Marine who hates Muslims and posted a video that indicates he plans to die at this standoff.

I don’t want anyone to die in this. I want these terrorists caught, convicted of treason, and spending the rest of their lives in prison. And I hope that the Hammonds manage to get their sentences reduced, even if they aren’t the most sympathetic of people. At least they are Americans who respect what the country stands for.

Morning Music: Charlie Patton & Mississippi Blues

Charlie PattonI have a great love of the music that is generally referred to Mississippi delta blues in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. But it is something of a distortion to call it that. There certainly was a lot of great music that came out of there. But there was very similar music that came out of Louisiana and Texas and even as far east as Georgia. And the people who played it moved around a lot to support themselves.

I had wanted to focus the women of that time and place. But there isn’t much to speak of in that regard. Everyone knows Bessie Smith, of course. But she didn’t perform that kind of music. She was more like Billie Holiday, although she’s not even of the same time period. So I’m stuck with just two women: Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley and maybe Bertha Lee Pate. And even they barely make the cut in terms of time. I’m not even going to make it to Robert Johnson.

Let’s start the week with Charlie Patton who, as far as I can tell, was the closest thing that the Mississippi delta had to a star. My main interest in delta blues is the combination of the voice and the guitar. That’s why the slide guitar was so often critical. Patton was a master of it apparently at the very birth of the technique. I haven’t noticed anyone doing it better than he does on “Spoonful Blues.” I love Leo Kottke, but I’m sure he would agree that he doesn’t do a thing that Charlie Patton didn’t do a century earlier. As you will hear, Kottke isn’t alone. Just wait until we do Sun House tomorrow.

Anniversary Post: Concerned Christians Deported

Al-Aqsa MosqueOn this day in 1999, 60 to 80 members of the Concerned Christians were arrested and deported from Israel. They were apparently part of a conspiracy to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque which is in Israel controlled Jerusalem. You all know me: I have my problems with Israeli policy. And I understand why they act as they do: keeping Israel a Jewish state is a real problem and a lot of people (me included) think that maybe it isn’t worth it. But in general, I think that Israel is part of the civilized world. It’s a paranoid country, but it has no interest in destroying Islam. So of course they would protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and foil a conspiracy to destroy it.

Now let’s talk about the Concerned Christians. The group was formed in the late 1980s in Colorado. They were fighting mad about my good New Age friends who take a sloppy approach to religion. And they were concerned about anti-Christian sentiment, because you know how oppressed Christians are here in America that is 75% Christian. But as Christian freaks will tend to do, they quickly turned into an apocalyptic movement. And they knew that one thing standing in the way Jesus coming back and giving them all the toys and candy they wanted was that Jerusalem wasn’t totally under Jewish control. I mean: mosque! Am I right?! So the Concerned Christians were a big part of “Operation Walk on Water.”

Let me take a moment to discuss Christian terrorism for a moment. It is likely that a lot of the early Roman oppression of Christians was because of this kind of stuff. They were involved in terrorist acts that they thought would bring Jesus back. Anyone who thinks that politics and religion are separate are foolish. For the true believers, they are one and the same. We are all very lucky that most religious people don’t take their religions very seriously.

But good for the Israelis for catching these fools. Unfortunately, they are still around. And according to Wikipedia, we don’t even know where they are. They could be in Greece or Philadelphia. But I’ll bet none of them are on the terrorist watch list, even though they’ve all been part of a terror plot. But they’re Christians, so I guess they can’t be terrorists. They must be peace loving. When someone slaps them in the face, they turn their face so the other side can be slapped.

Concerned Christians!