Category Archives: Gun Issues

Power To The People: Unless The People Don’t Toe the NRA Line

I do so love the Tea Party Darlings, like Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who spout platitudes like “popular will,” and “freedom” until it actually comes around to people expressing a “will” and exercising their “freedom” in ways the National Rifle Association doesn’t approve.

Nevada voters approved Question One (pdf)  in the 2016 election.  The initiative requires background checks for gun sales in the state.  558,631 Nevada citizens voted in favor of the question; 548,732 did not. The Question passed.   Now, the “will of the people” isn’t quite enough for the State Attorney General to follow  along.  No sooner did the initiative pass than the AG was releasing an opinion that it could not be enforced [RGJ] in spite of the fact that there are other states with similar laws which have found ways to work with the FBI to keep their streets and communities safer.

And, the story continues in a January missive to the AG:

“We are gravely concerned that Mr. Laxalt misused and misinterpreted the power and duties of the Office of Attorney General,” Wynn and Jones wrote in the letter to the governor. “For these reasons, we write to request that you uphold the enforcement of this law irrespective of your opinion of this law.”

In their missive to Laxalt, the campaign leaders wrote: “Nevadans elected you Attorney General because they trusted you to fulfill the sacred duty of all our elected representatives to implement and enforce our state’s laws. It is well-known that you actively – and visibly – opposed this new law. However, the election is over and now it is your responsibility to implement a policy supported by a majority of your constituents because they know it will make our state safer.”

As I suspected, this is far from over — politically and legally. [Ralston]

There’s a kernel of truth herein:  No election is ever final IF the National Rifle Association and its hand-maiden (in the Margaret Atwood sense of the term) Republican Party, aren’t satisfied with the results.

Mr. Laxalt took the oath prescribed by the state of Nevada in 2015:

  I, ……………………., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States, and the Constitution and government of the State of Nevada, against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state notwithstanding, and that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties of the office of ……………., on which I am about to enter; (if an oath) so help me God; (if an affirmation) under the pains and penalties of perjury.

Well and truly performing the duties of the office of Attorney General means implementing and enforcing the laws of the state… even if he doesn’t necessarily like them.  It’s a dangerous precedent to set when an elected official decides which laws are practical and which are not.  Note: The AG isn’t saying Question One is unconstitutional. He’s saying he can’t enforce it.  And he can’t enforce it because he’s not actively cooperating with federal agencies to do so.

And, yes, it may well take litigation to force the Attorney General of the state of Nevada to do his job if that means bucking the NRA and its Tea Party allies.   Thus much for Popular Will and Freedom from Corporate Interests.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada politics

Let’s Discuss the Ladies?

Boom: The National Rifle Association is pleased to tell us that only Donald Trump will defend our 2nd Amendment rights…which isn’t true. Now it’s running a $6.5 million ad buy telling ladies to strap on the holsters to ‘fight back.’ [Salon]  This may not only be a function of current politics – the NRA has a problem, “not enough people are buying guns.”

Gun ownership graph What we do have is an increase in the number of people who own multiple guns:

“Americans own an estimated 265m guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 133m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.” [Guardian]

Little wonder the manufacturers want to sell more to the ladies?  Unless, of course the ladies have  seen the actual numbers:

“If we examine data from within the United States, the odds aren’t any better for gun owners. The most recent study examining the relationship between firearms and homicide rates on a state level, published last April, found a significant positive relationship between gun ownership and overall homicide levels. Using data from 1981–2010 and the best firearm ownership proxy to date, the study found that for every 1 percent increase in gun ownership, there was a 1.1 percent increase in the firearm homicide rate and a 0.7 percent increase in the total homicide rate.” [Slate]

The Good Woman with a Gun is simply a variation on the old Good Guy with a  Gun, and neither is true.

Bust: What we could do is to have a national discussion of domestic violence and begin by taking rape, domestic violence, and assaults on women more seriously.   Jeff Van Gundy had some words for the NBA which are well worth highlighting.

Huh? There’s an anti-Question 1 ad in Nevada, showing the various law enforcement people against the proposition which would close the gun show loophole in the Silver State.  We ought to assume that these law enforcement professionals are tasked with the enforcement of NRS 203: 360 which forbids the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, addicts, those adjudicated mentally ill, and those guilty of domestic violence.  Now the question becomes WHY would any law enforcement officer NOT want to find out if some felon, fugitive, addict, mentally ill, or domestic abuser was trying to purchase firearms at the local gun show?

Duh?  That little exchange in the Vice Presidential Debate last night about “punishing women who have abortions merits a comment or two.

Governor Pence has some antediluvian thoughts on mothers, womanhood, and the value thereof, see this piece in Alternet.   See also: Cosmopolitan;

“Though there is little doubt how extreme Pence’s anti-abortion stance is, he made it explicitly clear on the campaign trail. “I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for it,” he said during a town hall in July. Of a Trump/Pence administration, he said, “We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”

Then there was the not-so-small matter of Pence cutting funding for Planned Parenthood in Indiana, thus cutting HIV testing for Scott County, Indiana.

“In 2011, Planned Parenthood ran five rural clinics in Indiana. They tested for HIV and offered prevention, intervention and counseling for better health. The one in Scott County performed no abortions.

Mothers-to-be in Scott County must drive 50 miles to visit a gynecologist or an obstetrician. That’s not an isolated insight. Of Indiana’s 92 counties, Scott County has ranked 92nd in unhealthiness for five straight years.” [ChiTrib]

Health professional saw what was coming when the funding was cut. They begged for help from the state. None was forthcoming. Better an AIDS epidemic in a rural area than funding which might tangentially touch abortion services?

Mr. Trump is a classic misogynist, Governor Pence is downright dangerous.

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Filed under abortion, domestic abuse, Gun Issues, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Our Own Reality Show: Late Night Version

Nightmare Trees Dems

We have a presidential candidate who gets up at odd hours of the night to tweet insults to former beauty pageant winners, and who expended a great deal of time and energy bemoaning the categorization of his White Supremacist followers as “deplorable.”  If these are one’s priorities so be it, but there’s a difference between nightmares and issues – a differentiation not tackled all that efficiently by his supporters and surrogates. 

Republicans appear to be beset with nightmares, not the least of which is we, as a nation, might seem weak in the eyes of others.  Strength is Action. Action is Strength. We must, like a Hollywood B-Movie production complete with car chases and explosions, appear strong.  As we do when bombing some location into gravel and small piles of rubble. This is the nightmare of the small man in the bar just before closing time, well liquored up, who decides to demonstrate his masculinity by punching some fellow who has offer some vague (and probably misinterpreted) insult.   Should these people wake up and read the information available they’d find that the United States spent some 54% of its discretionary spending on the military.

Military Spending Discretionary And, how does this compare to military spending by other nations?  The U.S. spends approximately $2.77 for every dollar spent by the Chinese.

Military Spending Comparisons So, this ought to give some comfort to those whose sleep is disturbed by dreams of military annihilation at the hands of the nefarious.  We have the best equipped, best lead, most professional military in the world.  There are issues here – not nightmares.

One issue is the tendency toward militarism, the notion that all problems have a military solution and thus the military must be accorded a prime place in national planning and policy.  This topic was explored here about eight years ago:

“Evidently lost on the militarists is the notion that one can be supportive of the military without adopting militarism. In fact, a “muscular” militarism that posits the application of military force to each and every conflict is counter-productive to long term military interests. The ‘whack-a-mole’ Bush Administration/McCain policies have the U.S. Armed Forces stretched to the limit, with used and abused equipment, and over-deployed troops, who are facing serious obstacles to receiving comprehensive care and benefits after their service. A cogent, less militaristic, policy would recommend the continual evaluation of our deployment ramifications, sentient assessments of our capacities, and a rational review of our own recruiting and remuneration standards. A less militaristic policy would allow us to employ the diplomatic tools in our arsenal to spare the unnecessary exploitation of our military. When we ‘wise up’ we’ll realize which Party’s candidates can deliver these policies.”  [DB]

In short, if we’ll stop all the posturing and flag waving pseudo-patriotism and start thinking about how and when the use of military force is applicable without draining our resources and putting our diplomatic efforts in jeopardy, then we can all sleep a bit better.

The second nightmare which seems to be grabbing hold of the sweat soaked sheets of our Republican friends is that someone, somewhere, is cheating us out of what is rightfully ours.  Taxation! Tax money being spent on Welfare Queens and Food Stamp cheats!  Oh, the misery.   Waking up and using The Google will solve one part of the nightmare – we really aren’t “taxed to death.”

“The tax burden is lower in the U.S. than in many other developed nations. Of 34 OECD countries, the U.S. tax rate for the average single American with no children ranks No. 17. The tax burden on a single person with two kids ranks 27th. Comparing tax rates across countries is difficult, however, without taking into account how much people benefit from their tax payments in college tuition, retirement income, or more intangible rewards, such as security and the social safety net.” [BlmbNews]

The reality is that there is no monster under the bed.  We aren’t even in the top ten OECD countries in terms of taxation.  But, but, but, how about welfare cheats?   If we look at the SNAP program from the USDA we find that: “The SNAP national payment error rate for fiscal year 2014 is 3.66 percent.  This indicates a 96.34 percent accuracy rate of providing benefits to low income people.  In fiscal year 2014, over 99 percent of participating households  were eligible for SNAP as determined by income and other program criteria.” [USDA]  I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I could get my total financial records into the 96.34% accuracy category I’d be one happy camper in sweet dream land. 

However, nightmares aren’t made of rational ruminations about fiscal accuracy and accounting practices.  They come from anecdotal renditions and repetitions of ‘stories’ about seeing some guy drive up in a new pickup and toting out a case of Budweiser.

“The Act precludes the following items from being purchased with SNAP benefits:  alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption. Nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, medicines and vitamins, household supplies, grooming items, and cosmetics, also are ineligible for purchase with SNAP benefits.” [USDA

Under the terms of the 2002 legislation, no “illegal immigrants” are eligible for SNAP assistance. [USDA]  Further, ‘non-qualified aliens’ are not eligible for a host of other benefit programs, as specified in bureau or agency rules:

“Federal public benefits include a variety of safety-net services paid for by federal funds. But the welfare law’s definition does not specify which particular programs are covered by the term, leaving that clarification to each federal benefit–granting agency. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a notice clarifying which of its programs fall under the definition. The list of 31 HHS programs includes Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, TANF, Foster Care, Adoption Assistance, the Child Care and Development Fund, and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.” [NILC]

Sleep well Republican friends, the undocumented are not eligible for support,  and we are being most parsimonious in regard to our bestowal of benefits. 

Democrats might sleep more comfortably if the following situation were improved:

“Despite growth in SNAP caseloads since the onset of the Great Recession, about 17 percent of those eligible go unserved and SNAP is missing nearly six in ten eligible elderly persons. SNAP policies that improve program access and increase staff capacity to process applications as well as SNAP outreach can help communities, families and businesses maximize federal dollars.” [FRAC]

We should not forget the other monster in the closet. Others.  If slavery was America’s Original Sin, and segregation its phalanx of myrmidons, then racism is the residual.  However, demonization is not necessarily the exclusive domain of people of color – we’ve demonized Irish and Eastern European immigrants, Asian and Chinese immigrants, Jews, Catholics; and lest we forget “commies” during the McCarthy Era. 

Perhaps some right wing individual tosses and turns on the mattress because the phone answering service wants to know if he’d like the message options in Spanish?  This is America, Speak English!  The immigrants will, like most others before them, and the native language will be lost in three generations:

“The authors found that although the generational life expectancy of Spanish is greater among Mexicans in Southern California than other groups, its demise is all but assured by the third generation. Third-generation immigrants are American-born with American-born parents but with three or four foreign-born grandparents.
In the second generation, fluency in Spanish was greater for Mexican immigrants than for other Latin American groups, and substantially greater than the proportions of Asian immigrants who could speak their mother tongue very well. In the third generation, only 17 percent of Mexican immigrants still speak fluent Spanish, and in the fourth generation, just 5 percent. The corresponding fourth-generation figure for white European immigrants is 1 percent.
What is endangered, said the authors, is not the dominance of English but the survival of the non-English languages immigrants bring with them to the United States.” [Princeton Edu/Massey 2006]

If we’re looking for some reason to lose sleep it might be because by the 4th generation we’ve lost 95% to 99% of the language facility we might have had in this increasingly shrinking world.

But, wouldn’t we all sleep more peacefully if we’d just SAY we need to fight “radical Islam?”

First, there’s a little problem defining “radical.”  Do we mean what might be considered conservative Islam, men with beards, women in burkas?  This leaves us with a problem – what to do with the Muslim family who wants the daughter to go to medical school because there’s a need for women doctors to treat women patients?  What to do with the millions of practitioners  of Islam who are not conservative? And the millions more who have a special word for the ISIS thugs who flout their disregard for the basic tenets of Islam – daesh. (That stuff you scrape off the bottom of your shoes.)

Sleep well, the odds against an American being killed in a terrorist attack are 1: 25,000,000. [TechJuc] Another comforting (?) thought is that an American is far more likely to be shot by a toddler than a terrorist. [Snopes]

But that is another nightmare we don’t like to talk about.  I’d sleep better if we could do something about keeping firearms out of the hands of toddlers…

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Filed under anti-immigration, anti-terrorism, conservatism, Federal budget, Gun Issues, Immigration, Islam, Nativism, Politics, racism, Republicans, Taxation, terrorism, White Supremacists

Gunslinging in the Silver State

Guns Here are the rules for firearm possession in Nevada.

“NRS 202.360  Ownership or possession of firearm by certain persons prohibited; penalties.

      1.  A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person:

      (a) Has been convicted in this State or any other state of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33);

      (b) Has been convicted of a felony in this State or any other state, or in any political subdivision thereof, or of a felony in violation of the laws of the United States of America, unless the person has received a pardon and the pardon does not restrict his or her right to bear arms;

      (c) Is a fugitive from justice;

      (d) Is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, any controlled substance; or

      (e) Is otherwise prohibited by federal law from having a firearm in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control.

Ê A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.

      2.  A person shall not own or have in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm if the person:

      (a) Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility by a court of this State, any other state or the United States;

      (b) Has entered a plea of guilty but mentally ill in a court of this State, any other state or the United States;

      (c) Has been found guilty but mentally ill in a court of this State, any other state or the United States;

      (d) Has been acquitted by reason of insanity in a court of this State, any other state or the United States; or

      (e) Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.

Ê A person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

      3.  As used in this section:

      (a) “Controlled substance” has the meaning ascribed to it in 21 U.S.C. § 802(6).

      (b) “Firearm” includes any firearm that is loaded or unloaded and operable or inoperable.”

This seems fairly clear.  A person in Nevada shall not possess firearms if  he or she is  (1) convicted of domestic abuse; (2) is a felon; (3) is a fugitive from justice; (4) is addicted to drugs; (5) is adjudicated mentally ill.

Now, how do we determine if someone falls into one of these proscribed categories?  There are supposed to be background checks for that purpose. One would think that law enforcement officers would be in favor of any measure that would help prevent guns from getting into the hands of domestic abusers, felons, fugitives, addicts, and the dangerously mentally ill. While such a measure wouldn’t prevent all such incidents it would help, and in this matter every bit of assistance would be welcome.  We’d be wrong. Some of the local law enforcement personnel appear to be acting against their own best interests in anti-Question 1 advertising.

Contrary to the gunslingers – Question One doesn’t “criminalize gun ownership.” Gun ownership for domestic abusers, felons, fugitives, addicts, and the adjudicated mentally is ALREADY a criminal offense.  There’s nothing added that would criminalize gun ownership for any other person not falling into one of these categories.

Contrary to the gunslingers – Question One isn’t about “g u n c o n t r o l” (think of a scary voice…) It is about keeping guns out of the hands of people who should never have them in the first place.

Contrary to the gunslingers – the law is unworkable because criminals won’t obey it – for the umpteenth time: That is the definition of a criminal, a person who doesn’t obey the law. Again, do we take the laws against bank robbery off the books because bank robbers don’t respect them?  Of all the pro-gun proliferation arguments this has to be the silliest.

Contrary to the gunslingers – Simply because a single measure won’t prevent all violent crime doesn’t prevent the idea from having merit if it seeks to prevent some violent crime.   The standard set by the NRA/Ammosexuals is artificially high and obviously unachievable – no law will prevent all criminal activity, but that’s no reason not to make an attempt at reduction.

There is a slippery slope here, not as the NRA contends that any regulation of firearms will necessarily devolve into the confiscation of all firearms; but, that we will continue to slide down a slope on which it becomes easier and more convenient for those who should never have lethal weapons in the first instance to create more havoc, more lethal incidents, and more tragic events.

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Filed under Gun Issues

Representative Joe Heck and the NRA: A Quick Look

Heck NRA 1

Perhaps this is why we can’t get anything done about gun violence?

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Filed under Gun Issues, Heck

Email Items for Uncle Fester: Officer Down Edition

Cops killed by firearms chart The chart above shows firearm related deaths of police officers and law enforcement personnel since 2005. [FactCheck.org]

This chart shows police fatalities by administration:

Cop fatalities by adminstration [Link here]

There is possibly no way Uncle Fester, that Right Wing Loon at the Thanksgiving Dinner assembly, is going to believe his own lying eyes. However, that doesn’t mean his inbox should be immune from a few bits of factual matter.

We all know by now that the Uncle Festers of the world aren’t moved by facts, data, peer reviewed statistics, or logical arguments.  If they were they’d not be saying things like: “My great-grandparents didn’t come to this country to have their descendents shoved out of jobs by immigrants.” (A debunked tweet now picked up and repeated by Trump followers and detractors alike.)

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Filed under Gun Issues, Politics, Republicans

Police Accountability: No one model and no single system

Crime Scene Tape

There was a meeting in Reno, NV between members of the community, representatives of Black Lives Matter, and law enforcement officers. That’s good. [RGJ]  It’s a start. Or, to put it another way it’s another step on a path forward which has the tortuous feel of a mountain trail with numerous cut backs.  We might be able to more fully address the issues related to policing our communities if we’d take some additional topics into consideration.

One of the most obvious topics is the use of force, in perhaps too many cases deadly force, and how police officers may be held accountable in controversial situations.  The importance of Tennessee v. Garner can’t be overestimated, and further, administrative and legal cases do seem to have an effect on policing policies and practices. [Hudson] However, public perception is also related to faith in the system, and the system is fragmented.

In Nevada, for example, how a citizen can report instances of police misconduct varies with each jurisdiction, and sometimes within a single metropolitan area.  Reporting a favorable comment about policing is very easy in Reno.  There’s a website form for that.  Reporting an instance of possible police misconduct isn’t as simple.  Reno, Washoe County, and Carson City each have their own process and requirements for filing an allegation of misconduct. [ACLU]  There are four ways to file a complaint in Reno, three ways in Washoe County, and only one way (in person) in Carson City.   The report information goes to the Internal Affairs Office in Reno, passes to the Sheriff’s office in Carson City, and through the Sheriff’s office in Washoe County.

The Accountability process is also a matter of local jurisdiction. There is a local Review Board in Las Vegas, which while it does have some investigative powers is confined to making recommendations only.  Even this improvement met with a critique from the Justice Department in a 2012 investigation:

“Metro’s Use of Force Review Board — currently a mix of residents and department personnel — needs revamping because of procedures the COPS Office found “outdated and insufficient.” To remedy the situation, the report recommends Metro create a stand-alone manual for the board, which would outline its purpose, operating procedures and clarify roles of the board’s members.” [LVSun] [DoJ] [DoJ Report pdf]

This wasn’t all the Department of Justice had to say on the matter in October 2012.   The report found that the Coroner’s inquest process related to the review of the use of deadly force was ineffective at the time. The District Attorney’s office needed more training and expertise related to investigating deadly force incidents, and while the Clark County DA had begun to review officer involved lethal shootings, and to issue decision letters, there were no letters for serious, non-fatal use of force incidents. [DoJ Report pdf]  The current accountability public perceptions may rest on how much progress has been made since the 2012 recommendations, and on the application of the review processes in the context of Nevada statutes on police use of force.

The public is beginning to perceive that investigations of police officers are quite different from those a private citizen can expect.  For example, in Las Vegas the officer will receive a 48 hour notice before an interview, and even if that notice requirement is waived it must be approved by the association.  Additionally, the officer will be provided with ALL evidence during an interrogation to facilitate correcting “inconsistencies.”  There are also contractual provisions allowing an officer terminated as a result of an investigation 30 days to appeal and to enter into binding arbitration. Written reprimands will be removed from the officer’s personnel file after 18 months; minor suspensions after 3 years, and major suspensions after 5 years.  There is to be no retention of investigation records in which the officer is exonerated, or the allegations are held to be unfounded, or un-sustained.   The contract in Las Vegas is about “average” in its provisions for police protection, with the major exception that the city is not exclusively liable for civil actions related to the incident.

There are some jurisdictions in which an officer cannot be interrogated for more than 6 hours in a given session, and may not be threatened with vile language or threats of demotion, transfer, or termination of employment. (Fort Worth)  Louisville, KY allows no threats, coercion, or promises made during an interrogation, and St. Petersburg, FL allows only one interrogation session.  [CTP interactive]

“Public Employee and Public Ideology” issues are also entangled in these topics.  There are some conservative voices only too pleased to blame teachers’ unions, for example, for allowing the retention of “bad apples.” However, these voices are strangely silent when the subject of police unions comes to the fore.  It is in no one’s best interest when any public employee is subjected to discriminatory, capricious, or arbitrary treatment regarding his or her demotion, dismissal, or refusal of re-employment.  However, when other public employees are alleged to have been responsible for the death or physical injury of another the notice and the interrogation limitations are not available to them, nor are the requirements that they have access to all the evidence collected prior to the interrogation.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

That there is no single model and no single unifying concepts for police accountability means that each jurisdiction is left to its own devices to cope with community and police relations.  Some, like the Dallas PD, have done a better job than others, such as Baton Rouge and Ferguson, MO.

Perhaps we’d be well served to think outside the dotted lines at some tangential issues which exacerbate the situations in which both law enforcement and community members find themselves.  Let’s start with what is likely to be one of the most obvious.

Racism.  Could we at least recognize that it exists? Could we at least acknowledge that it informs some actions that are not necessarily overt? Remember the African American college student who was arrested in NYC for buying a belt the clerk and officers said he couldn’t possibly afford, and concluded that he’d thereby committed fraud? [HuffPo]  Or, the African American actor who was arrested for buying his mother a $1,350 watch, as a present for her college graduation? [DNAinfo]  These are simply more high profile illustrations of the problem as related by one of the participants in the Reno meeting:

“Don Dike-Anukam said he was glad he attended Sunday’s event and hopes others will consider what life is like when “the shoe is on the other foot.”

“It’s hard to explain to people who never had to literally prepare for a police stop or have been followed in a supermarket when you’ve done nothing wrong or know what it’s like to have that feeling of suspicion and done nothing wrong,” Dike-Anukam said. “It makes you a little angry and annoyed inside and sad at the same time.” [RGJ]

Combining racism and fear is a truly toxic mix. What of the police officer  knowing that he is dealing with a white person in a traffic stop who may be armed, and feels less insecure? Or, more insecure if the person in Black? Is the white citizen more innocent until proven guilty, or the Black citizen guilty until proven innocent?

Police as collection agents. One of the things that precipitated the mess in Ferguson, MO was the use of the police department as a collection agency in an effort to bolster the town budget.  In 2010 the Ferguson police department generated $1.4 million for the county treasury, almost 25% of the city’s $13 million budget. [RS]  To put the issue more bluntly:

“…when budgetary whims replace peacekeeping as the central motivation of law enforcement, who is more likely to write up more tickets, the good cop or the crummy one? When the mission of the entire department shifts from “protect and serve” to “punish and profit,” then just what constitutes good police?” [MJ]

Most of the incidents that initiated the current turmoil began as traffic stops and other very minor items in the grand scheme of things.  We’d be remiss if we didn’t ask how many of these stops were associated with increasing revenues for local governments? With fulfilling quotas of some kind? With “keeping the numbers up?”  None of this having much to do with good police work.

Police Training. Now, if we combine racism and revenue generation, then why are we surprised when minor incidents become major news?  One element which seems to need further discussion is the addition of de-escalation policies and training for police officers.

In March 2016, the Los Angeles Police Commission voted to implement a use of force policy emphasizing de-escalation and the use of minimal force in encounters with the general public. [LAcbs]

“One of the recommendations suggests the LAPD’s use-of-force policy be revised “to emphasize that deadly force shall only be exercised when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or appear impracticable.

The revision in policy will also establish the expectation that officers redeploy to a position of tactical advantage when faced with a threat, whenever such redeployment can be reasonably accomplished in a manner consistent with officer and public safety.” [LAcbs]

Unfortunately, the police union doesn’t seem to be on board:

“Clearly this is not a collaborative process by the Police Commission,” he said. “We are very concerned that the recommendations as written may jeopardize officer and community safety. We’re afraid that this policy does not take into account the split-second, life-and-death decisions police officers must make in the field.”

An internal LAPD report was released earlier this month that found LAPD officers used force nearly 2,000 times last year, including 21 cases in which people were fatally shot. More than one-third of the 38 people who were shot by police were mentally ill. [LAcbs]

However, making those decisions is a function of training and experience, and if the training includes how to de-escalate a volatile situation then both the safety of the officer and the safety of the citizen could be improved.  It hardly seems fair to criticize an officer when the predominance of his or her training is consumed in fire arms training, and then complain when the person shoots first and faces the questions later.

Guns. Eventually it all comes back to guns.   Now, there’s research reported on the subject:

“The results were shocking: line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with the low gun ownership states. Between 1996 and 2010, in other words, there were 0.31 officer fatalities for every 10,000 employed officers in low gun ownership states. But there were 0.95 fatalities per 10,000 officers in the high gun ownership states.” [WaPo]

Law enforcement officers “working in states with higher levels of gun ownership faced a greater likelihood of being shot and killed on the job compared with their peers in states with lower gun ownership,” the study concludes. The relationship was strong enough that every 10 percent increase in gun ownership correlated with 10 more officer deaths over the study period. [WaPo]

If we’re truly interested in the safety of our law enforcement personnel then we have to address what’s killing them. Guns.

This partial list of “Things To Think About” is a heaping portion of problems on our collective plate.  None of these discussion will be easy, or simple, or without rancor.  However, I don’t think that we can afford to ignore any of the elements.   Those who refuse to consider the possibility that there are problems in our contemporary system will not be convinced there is a necessity to address these topics; those who do should take heart that communities around the country, like Reno, are at least beginning the discussion.

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Filed under civil liberties, Gun Issues, Las Vegas, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, public safety, violence