This week’s roundup comes to you in three parts. First up, some housekeeping and personal news: First, I’m hoping to start a regular mailbag feature here. So AMA. Send me your questions about my work, the issues I cover, stuff I like, stuff you’ve read here, recommendations. Have at it.
Balko: "I had an essay in the New York Times about the long and sordid history of elite police units like the SCORPION unit that killed Tyre Nichols."
NYT? The Big Time -- WTG!
With regards to the very first bullet point, my favorite thing to read from you is debunking faulty forensic science. Much of it is completely made up, but smart people believe it because it makes sense. Lots of things that make sense turn out to be false and the lay public has no real way of knowing this unless those with the loudest voices convince them.
Unfortunately, it is much easier to just believe what the "experts" say without really examining the basis for why they say things. As an example, Megan Kelly (think of her what you will, but she has a huge following) recently had a guest on who discussed how he gets information from listening to 911 tapes. As in, he can tell if the person on the tape is lying or telling the truth based on their demeanor. Before believing that, I want to know how often he is correct in his assessment and how often he is wrong (as determined by as objective a source as possible - not the forensic experts and not the prosecutors). Just like getting accuracy readings on drug dogs (which is somehow never released for the public to see), it really shouldn't be too hard to determine.
That is just one example of what irks me today :). The larger point, though, is that I want to see more evaluation of forensic science and more attempts to have the common culture acknowledge that most of it is false.
It's not just the moose you spot. It's the moose you don't spot.
I wrote a comment that referred to the following in a comment at The Bulwark. A good example of Justice reform actually happening is in Chittenden County, Vermont. Sarah George, the State’s Attorney (an elected position) for the County is working on removing cash bail. Her point is having money to post bail has nothing to do with the severity of the crime, it is based solely on income level. In Burlington, she and others are working on the huge problem of people stealing cars to sleep in on cold nights. They are working on restitution to owners coupled with restorative Justice.
First, congratulations on your joining the Quatrone Center. I just read your review of Riotsville, USA. I first became aware of your work after encountering NEMLEC, which was chaperoning a Hell's Angels contingent to a biker event somewhere near Shirley, MA. Looking up the North East Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, I found your piece in WaPo about this private SWAT outfit. I was shocked to learn that this function had been privatized. Is this now a prevalent model?