“America’s toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arapaio, says “I’m not a social worker, I’m a cop.” Maybe through his rose colored glasses he sees himself as a tough-talking Sheriff who dresses his inmates in pink underwear and has no propensity to be liked but Arpaio is wrong. Cops, like it or not, for better or worse, are social workers. Often, they are dealing with people at their worse and in a myriad of situations where perhaps…just maybe…a little understanding would go a long way.
Joe Arpaio is sheriff in Maricopa Country, Arizona which includes Phoenix and Scottsdale. The federal government says they will sue the controversial sheriff to force him to accept federal oversight of his department. In his latest battle with the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged civil rights abuses, Sheriff Joe Arpaio remains defiant. “I sure don’t want to be known as a nice guy,” he said. “I’m not a social worker, I’m a cop.”
The 79-year-old has been in office since 1982. Many who have gone through his jails, including his desert tent city where inmates wear pink underwear, have long accused Arpaio of violating their rights. But it’s his department’s treatment of Hispanics that prompted federal officials this week to demand an independent monitor. “Are they going after this sheriff?” asked Arpaio. “Well we know why, because hey don’t like me enforcing illegal immigration law.” A three-year investigation by the Justice Department found what it called “unconstitutional policing” and “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” who are up to nine times more likely than whites to be stopped by a Maricopa County deputy.
Arpaio is a media hog rarely missing an opportunity to perform for the cameras telling CBS News that “I’m an equal opportunity guy, we lock everybody up. It doesn’t matter what their race or background is.” In one incident cited in the federal report a Hispanic driver “was incarcerated for 13 days before his citation was dismissed” for not using his turn signal. In another, one of Arpaio’s deputies “purposefully struck (a Latino) with his patrol car, pinning (him) under the vehicle”. Arpaio’s department paid $600,000 to settle the lawsuit. But Arpaio’s supporters say the sheriff gets results, citing Maricopa County’s 19 percent drop in crime from 2004 to 2008. An effort by opponents to force a recall election failed in 2007. “I am not going to surrender,” explained Arpaio. “I will never resign no matter how many demonstrations they have.” He’s not only refusing to resign. He is running for re-election in November seeking a sixth four-year term and has already raised $6 million in campaign donations.
The Maricopa County Attorney defended Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Wednesday, telling the U.S. Justice Department to ” put up or shut up” by revealing the evidence federal investigators have collected in a probe into Arpaio’s alleged discriminatory practices. As the Arizona Republic reported, County Attorney Bill Montgomery made a strong statement against the federal probe, which is looking into accusations that the Sheriff’s Office has engaged in widespread discriminatory policing policies against Latino residents of the Arizona county. The Justice Department has declined to turn over documentation, stating that the investigation is ongoing.
“I want to make it absolutely clear,” Montgomery said Wednesday. “If the Department of Justice actually has information that supports their assertion that there continue to this day systemic concerns of discriminatory policing or racial profiling, I demand– I demand as the chief prosecutor of Maricopa County… to be given that information immediately.” Is it me or is this Sheriff and the people who surround him a bit rancid?
Controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws are only part of an equation that has seen a rise in justifiable homicides in the United States. Rising numbers of civilian justifiable homicides across the US are closely linked to states with both weak gun controls and stand-your-ground laws, according to an analysis by the United Kingdom newspaper THE GUARDIAN of FBI and other data, which show a 25% increase in such killings since the controversial self-defence laws started being introduced around 2005.
Stand-your-ground (SYG) measures, which have attracted increasing scrutiny since the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Florida, allow citizens to use deadly force when they believe their life is in danger, without requiring them to retreat or try to escape the threat first. Florida was the first state to introduce an SYG law in 2005 and similar measures have now been adopted in some form by more than 20 states. Many were passed in 2006. The Trayvon Martin case has led to calls for the SYG laws to be reviewed or repealed.
But the Guardian analysis shows that these measures alone cannot be statistically linked with the rise in justifiable homicides. However, in states with both SYG laws and the weakest gun controls – as defined by the Brady Campaign against gun violence – we found a statistical correlation with an increase in justifiable homicides. Across the US, such killings have risen sharply over the last five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and the Florida department of law enforcement. Between 2001 and 2005, there were 1,225 homicides classed as justifable, compared to 1,528 in the period 2006-2010. By contrast, violent crime overall has been falling.
It is likely that the real number of killings could be higher. The data provided on a state-by-state basis to the FBI on justifiable homicide tends to be low and there are gaps in data. According to the FBI’s crime reporting handbook, “Justifiable homicide, by definition, occurs in conjunction with other offenses”. It reminds reporting agencies to “take care to ensure they do not classify a killing as justifiable or excusable solely on the claim of self-defense or on the action of a coroner, prosecutor, grand jury or court”.
Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said: “This research demonstrates a fundamental point. Stand-your-ground laws are dangerous on their own as a mentality. But when combined with weak gun laws they become a recipe for tragedy.” He added: “Too much of the media focus has been on stand your ground alone. But we need to look at why Trayvon Martin is dead. Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman had a gun and that gun was put into his hands by the abominably low standards of guns laws in Florida. Zimmerman had a record of violence, but he was allowed to walk the streets with a loaded gun.”
Across the US, such killings have risen sharply over the last five years, according to the data provided by the FBI and Florida. Click to enlarge. Photograph: Guardian
Zimmerman, who admitted killing Martin but claimed self-defence under the law, had previously been charged with resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer but the charges were dropped. He had also been accused of domestic violence in a case where he counter-accused his partner. Professor Dennis Kenney, of John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York and a former police sergeant in Florida, said the Guardian’s findings made sense. He said: “When more and more people carry guns and in more places, there are going to be more shootings.”
Recent years have seen an increase “not just in the number of guns, but also in the places that people have the right to take guns”, said Kenney. “Various states are trying to remove almost all restrictions, even in bars serving alcohol. There’s a high probability in states like Florida that a large number of people around you are armed.” Into that mix, the SYG laws remove any responsibility to diffuse a situation, he said, leading to a “wild west” system of justice. “Justified homicides by police are also up,” said Kenney. “The police are shooting more people and citizens are shooting more people. We’re evolving into an increasingly coarse society with no obligation to diffuse a situation and rapidly turn to force. “People are literally getting away with murder.”
The relatively low numbers of justifiable homicides per year in some states make it difficult to extend any analysis beyond the US-wide finding and between individual states. It is worth noting that the relatively low population sizes in places like Hawaii, Alaska and Delaware, which show comparatively large increases in justifiable homicides despite having no SYG laws, make them susceptible to large swings. The numbers in each five-year period for these states are single digits. In contrast, Florida, one of the states ranked worst for gun control laws by the Brady campaign, saw an almost tripling in the number of justifiable homicides between 2001 and 2005, when there were 66, to 2006 to 2010, when there were 180, according to data from Florida department of law enforcement. Florida’s JH data was the only data included in the Guardian’s analysis which did not come directly from the FBI.
Florida gun legislation includes statutes that ban cities and counties from regulating firearms without the state’s permission, prevent police from collecting data on firearm sales at pawnshops and forbids adoption agencies from considering gun ownership when looking at placing children, according to the San Fransico Chronicle. Some experts pointed out that the states with weak gun controls are likely to be the same ones where stand-your-ground laws have been introduced, due to the strong belief in the right to carry arms in those states. But this is not universally true.
John Roman, senior fellow in justice policy at non-partisan thinktank The Urban Institute in Washington, DC, said: “The order of events is that we have states where lots of people own guns and believe in guns. They are more likely to pass stand-your-ground laws and weak gun controls. “Because the stand your ground law make it harder to prove that a homicide wasn’t justified, the justified homicides go up.” Roman, who has written about stand-your-ground laws, believes that the rise in SYG is likely to lead to more miscarriages of justice. “It changes where the burden of proof lies. In a state without a SYG law, in a shooting, the police arrest you and then the burden is on the prosecutor to prove it is not self-defence.”
“When stand your ground comes into it, the police cannot arrest you before a probable cause finding. The place where the fact finding occurs is moved from the court to the street. “When you undertake an investigation in a chaotic setting like a shooting you are more likely to make mistakes than in a setting like a trial. It is bad law because it moves the fact finding to the street. It provides a barrier to a prosecution without providing any benefits.” But Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, cautioned that any increase in justifiable homicides should not be taken as an actual increase in killings that might not otherwise have happened. Rather, he said, the rise could be down to a change in how police classify data. He argued that the tripling of Florida’s civilian justifiable homicides was “implausible” and said that the reported jump from 33 in 2006 to 102 in 2007 “strongly suggests such a definitional change”.
Kleck said that one desired effect of SYG and the right to carry (RTC) laws was to deter violent criminals and reduce violent crime. In an email response to the Guardian’s data, he pointed out that violent crimes had fallen. “In 2006, the rate of murders and non-negligent homicides (all the criminal homicides that the FBI counts) was 5.8 per 100,000 population; in 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), the rate was 4.8 – a 17% decline in four years. The robbery rate also declined by an identical 17% over the same period, from 31.6 to 27.5.”
Kleck said: “The decline in crime that paralleled the enactment RTC and SYG laws cannot be considered proof of the effect of these laws. Indeed, I think RTC have no net effect on crime rates. My point, rather, is that these are the same kinds of correlations concerning CJH increases and enactment of these laws that your analysis has produced, and are equally ambiguous in their meaning, and equally relevant to a consideration of the effects of these types of laws.”
Justifiable homicides: the story behind the data and our findings
After the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, many in the media have noted that Florida’s stand-your-ground laws have correlated with a great increase in the number of justifiable homicides by private citizens. What the Guardian wanted to determine was whether Florida’s increase was a statistical anomaly or part of nationwide trend in stand-your-ground states of the rise in justifiable homicides. Here are my more in-depth statistical warnings on what we did.
1. Data Request: Unlike crime statistics (by definition a justifiable homicide is not a crime), justifiable homicide numbers are not easily available. The FBI publishes national statistics, but does not have a web page available for each state’s rate. A request to the FBI for the state data was met quickly, and they provided “supplementary” crime data for 2001-2010.
2. Data incomplete: It turns out that Florida (along with a few other small states like West Virginia) does not actually report justifiable homicides to the FBI. We had to utilize data provided to news outlets by the Florida department of law enforcement. Some states like New York (2007-2010) seem to have stopped reporting data to the FBI in certain years. Since this is the raw crime data for each year, there is no category for “no crime reported”. We had to make the assumption that when certain states with historically low justifiable homicide rates such as New Hampshire haven’t reported a justifiable homicide for a year it’s because no killings were ruled to be justifiable homicides.
3. Data differences: The FBI’s national cumulative number of justifiable homicides differs by a small number with the totals calculated from the raw state files. However, the difference between the national numbers calculated without Florida and with Florida data included are great.
4. Justifiable homicide rates underreported: Even a cursory look at the FBI file makes it clear that it’s probable the justifiable homicide rates are undercounted even when you have “complete” data from a state. A large number of deaths are reported as “99″: “All instances where facts provided do not permit determination of circumstances.” How many of those were justifiable homicides will never be known. It’s possible that police, as criminologist Gary Kleck believes, are merely ruling more of these “99s” and other ambiguous killings as justifiable homicides than they used to.
5. Justifiable homicide rates are low: Very few killings are ruled as justifiable homicides each year. When taking into population, even the highest rates in a given year are only about five per million people. Usually, they are far lower. That means that rates are highly susceptible to a small increase. You can run all the robust regressions (that are supposed to account for outliers) you want, but even a small change in how a sheriff’s office in a small county reports killings can make a relationship appear that might not.
6. Correlation isn’t causation: This cannot be said enough. Just because we found a “correlation” that doesn’t mean it’s the cause. I tried my best to comb through the research to get an understanding of what most experts found usually correspond with increases in justifiable homicide rates. That said, there is the possibility that there is some variable that we didn’t think about or is not quantifiable that is having an impact.
When you take factors 2-6 into account, it’s very easy to see why making any 100% statements on justifiable homicides in the United States with regard to stand-your-ground and gun laws is difficult. We can only draw the best conclusion we can from the data, which I believe we have. I welcome continued discussion on the topic.
Harry J. Enton, Gabriel Dance and Karen McVeigh of The Guardian contributed this report.
A man with little regard for other motorists led police on a multi-county high speed chase across the Houston metro area this afternoon. Houston Police and Department of Public Safety troopers arrested a suspect who led them on a high-speed chase that started in the Heights and ended west of Houston nearly an hour later. The chase started around 4:25pm in the area of the Heights, but and ended just after 5pm right before the Austin County line, where the suspect pulled over and was arrested.
There are conflicting stories about why police were pursuing the man. KHOU-TV says the man is a robbery suspect. The chase started in Houston’s heights area and proceeded west on Interstate 10 in rush hour traffic. The suspect eventually stopped at the Brazos River bridge and got out of the car and immediately lay on the ground as cops surrounded him. The suspect was handcuffed and taken into custody. It is believed the SUV stopped when it’s tires were shot out by a Texas State Trooper. I am impressed with the professionalism of all of the law enforcement agencies involved in that no one was hurt…not even the suspect.
DALLAS, Texas — (DMN) – The Innocence Project of Texas, in conjunction with Houston Attorney Tracey Cobb and the Dallas Law Firm of Sorrels, Udashen & Anton announces the exoneration of three wrongfully convicted persons. On April 6, 2012, at 9:00 a.m., Darryl Washington, Shakara Robertson and Marcus Lashun Smith will appear before Judge Lena Levario of the 204th District Court in Dallas County for a hearing where it is expected that they will be declared innocent of the Aggravated Robbery offense they were charged with in 1994.
Mr. Washington, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Smith were arrested in November of 1994 and charged with aggravated robbery of an elderly person based on a purse snatching from an elderly woman. The three men, along with two juveniles, were arrested and accused of committing the offense. Mr. Washington was tried to a jury and received a 99-year prison sentence. Mr. Robertson and Mr. Smith subsequently accepted plea bargain for probation in order to avoid Mr. Washington’s fate.
The case against the three men consisted of erroneous eyewitness identifications. The men’s innocence was proven when Houston Attorney Tracey Cobb, while still a law student at the University of Houston Law School and working with the law school Innocence Network, began investigating Mr. Washington’s case. After her graduation from law school, Ms. Cobb doggedly continued her investigation, locating the men who actually committed the aggravated robbery. Ms. Cobb was able to obtain affidavits from these men admitting their role in the offense and confirming that Mr. Washington, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Smith were completely innocent.
Ms. Cobb enlisted the assistance of the Innocence Project of Texas, through its President Gary Udashen, to assist her in the representation of Mr. Washington. IPOT also agreed to take on the representation of Mr. Robertson and Mr. Smith through volunteer attorneys Bruce Anton and Robert N. Udashen. The Udashens and Mr. Anton are partners in the Dallas Law Firm of Sorrels, Udashen & Anton. Ms. Cobb and IPOT worked closely with Craig Watkins and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit on this case. Russell Wilson and Cynthia Garza, prosecutors with the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, conducted their own investigation and ultimately concluded that the three men were innocent of the charges.
On March 2, 2012, a daylong hearing was held before Judge Levario where four of the five men who actually committed this offense testified and admitted their involvement. The fifth man is deceased. Judge Levario also heard testimony from Mr. Washington, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Smith as well as two juveniles who were arrested with them. At the close of the testimony, Judge Levario made oral findings that Mr. Washington, Mr. Robertson and Mr. Smith were actually innocent. The hearing on April 6, 2012, will be the formal entry of Judge Levario’s findings of actual innocence. The Innocent Project of Texas acknowledges the excellent work of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, which has led to the anticipated exoneration of these three men and has previously led to the exoneration of over 25 other wrongfully convicted persons from Dallas County.
Thomas X. Hardy will spend the rest of his life in an Indiana prison cell after a Marion County (Indiana) judge sentenced him today for the shooting of Indianapolis Police Officer David Moore. Thomas Hardy, 61, pleaded guilty last month to charges of murder, robbery with a deadly weapon and possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon. The plea agreement called for a sentence for life without parole, plus 40 years, which was approved by a judge. “Thomas Hardy will die in prison. He has the rest of his life to reflect upon his violent acts and the life he took from this family and our community,” Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said in a statement.
The 9 a.m. hearing was packed with police officers, Indianapolis Director of Public Safety Frank Straub and members of Moore’s family. Hardy was expressionless as testimony began with Moore’s sister, Carol Bongfeldt, who said she agreed to the life without parole sentence to spare the family the pain of years of appeals. “You murdered my brother. I owe you nothing,” she told Hardy. Moore’s mother, Jo Moore, took the stand and wept as she read a letter she had prepared. “I needed to tell you face to face — I’m really horrified because you executed my little boy,” she told Hardy, who looked her directly in the eyes as she spoke. “I’m grateful you are willing to take the plea. I’ll work on forgiveness.”
Hardy’s attorney, Monica Foster, told the court that this client tried to express remorse after arrest and that he prays regularly for forgiveness. Hardy addressed the court, saying “I don’t know why this happened.” “I know you have hate in your heart for me, but not as much as I have for myself,” he said. “What happens to me doesn’t make any difference now. All I can say is I’m sorry.” Curry, who had sought the death penalty in the case, said he only accepted the deal with the urging of Moore’s parents. Spencer and Jo Moore said they consider the plea deal a chance to show compassion in an effort to honor their son’s legacy.
“Because of him accepting the guilt, it has really helped us,” Jo Moore said outside court. “Nothing will bring David back, but for Thomas Hardy to accept what he did, it really helps.” “I do believe that Mr. Hardy was honest in what he said. He made a mistake. He made a poor judgment,” Spencer Moore said. “Now he’s going to have to live the rest of his life within four walls. That’s a circumstance, I’m sure, won’t be very pleasant for him.” Jo Moore also gave Hardy a prayer card with David Moore’s picture on it, which she said he hopes he consults for the rest of his life.
Foster said she believes justice was served. “Any time that you have an officer who is shot, much less an officer who is as beloved as this officer, the appropriate punishment is a severe one, and this is a very, very severe punishment,” she said. Moore, a six-year veteran of the department, was shot twice in the face and once in the thigh during a traffic stop in the 3400 block of Temple Avenue on Jan. 23, 2011. He died days later. Hardy has an extensive criminal background and had been released from the Marion County Jail a month before Moore’s shooting.
What Thomas Hardy did to David Moore is horrific. To gun down a police officer is akin to gunning down society. I have listened closely to Jo and Spencer Moore during this process and can share this. I don’t hate Thomas Hardy. I hate what he did. I hope that the Moores and Hardy are able to find peace in their lives. I don’t know how anyone moves on from something like this, but somehow, I expect the Moore’s will find some peace in the David S. Moore Foundation that they set up in their son’s honor. For Mr. Hardy, I truly hope he finds a way to draw closer to God and come to terms with what he took from the Moore’s and from all of us.