Perceptual Biases in Policing

There have been a number of incidents where unarmed Black men have been shot by White police officers. These incidents have led to a number of assumptions, up to and including the suggestion that policing in America is racist. While this deduction is clearly unsubstantiated, the issue does warrant closer examination.

Recent data indicate that Black males are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than White males. A 2017 research article, “Racial Bias in Judgements of Physical Size and Formidability: From Size to Threat,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, addresses why some of these events may have occurred. The article suggests that Black men are stereotyped as threating, which may be causing a disproportionate targeting by police even when the victim is unarmed. Prior research suggests a stereotype of young Black men as physically threatening, less innocent, and perhaps even physically “superhuman.” These stereotypes may create conditions where the police officer has a distorted perception of a Black man’s physical size and formidability. The officer may perceive danger when, in fact, none exists. These perceptions have been demonstrated in shooting simulations where unarmed Black men were shot.

This research also found that people have a predisposition to perceive young Black men as bigger (taller, heavier, more muscular) and more physically threatening (stronger, more capable of harm) than young White men. This can easily be seen in the differences of the physical descriptions given by police officers who have shot unarmed Black males and the descriptions in the medical examiners’ findings. Furthermore, research conducted in 1982 suggests that racial differences in formidability judgments are a product of bias rather than accuracy. Biased formidability judgments in turn promoted participants’ justifications of hypothetical use of force against Black suspects of crime. Thus, perceivers appear to integrate multiple pieces of information to ultimately conclude that young Black men are more physically threatening than young White men, and, therefore, must be controlled using more aggressive measures.

An interesting twist: this research was not conducted using police officers. It was conducted using randomly selected White males and White females. Considering that 80% of police officers in the United States are White, and the hiring process for police officers selects “out” candidates and does not select “in” candidates, the individuals used in this research are actually representative of a police officer.

This research suggests that police officers commonly make decisions to shoot, not on whether the suspect was armed, but based on how large and physically formidable they perceive the suspect, and how this formidability may translate into potential danger.

I was still a patrol officer in 1982 when a research article was published that identified a bias in perceptions for physical formidability and threat posed by Black men and boys. I was never exposed to this physical formidability information in any in-service training, nor in any command decision training as a police chief, nor in any training materials as a field training officer or as a police academy instructor. The last basic police academy class I taught was in 2016. This poses a series of questions, like what happened to this data? Has this information ever been reviewed for use in a training format? In this day and age of interactive police training, has this bias been built into training scenarios? Has this information made it out of the academic journals and into the real world of police training? Why are we not using this information to better police training?

For the most part, I find theoretical research in criminal justice generally and in policing specifically as simply an academic exercise (and I have been there and done that). These findings on size and formidability as they relate to threat perception should be integrated into police training at all levels. This clearly has the potential to reduce officer involved shootings based on a racial bias.

Mental Illness and Gun Control

In the wake the recent push to blame mass shootings on something, the focus on mental illness, mental health and gun control has come into prominence. So just what is mental illness? The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as, “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.”The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as, “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling or mood. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.” The Mayo Clinic defines mental illness, also called mental health disorders, as, “a wide range of mental health conditions-disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.”Medline Plus defines mental disorders (or mental illnesses) as, “conditions that affect your thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. They may be occasional or long-lasting (chronic). They can affect your ability to relate to others and function each day.”  Using any of these definitions, someone who has been married more than one time could be diagnosed as “mentally ill” because of the inability to relate to others. Military veterans with PTSD would, by definition, be mentally ill. Bear in mind, military veterans are actively recruited to work for police departments. In fact, veterans’ preference points are used as a recruitment incentive into a job where they are given guns. When you fill out the questionnaire for the doctor and you answer yes to the question about ever feeling depressed, you could be diagnosed as mentally ill.

So how are shootings, particularly mass shootings, and mental illness related? First off, we need to define mass shooting. A good working definition of a mass shooting is “an event where three or more people are shot in one incident, at one location, at roughly the same time, excluding gang-related and drug-related shootings.” On 08/14/2019, six police officers were woulded in a stand-off in Philadelphia when police tried to serve a warrant. In 2018 Philadelphia experienced 351 homicides. On 08/04/2019, 10 people were killed in a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. In 2017, Dayton experienced 30 homicides. On 08/03/2019, 22 people were killed in a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.  In 2018, El Paso experienced 23 homicides. Washington D.C. experienced 159 homicides in 2018, an increase of 40%. In 2018, Chicago experienced 561 homicides, which is down 100 from 2017. Detroit experienced 261 homicides in 2018, down from 267 in 2017. New Orleans experienced 146 homicides in 2018, down from 157 in 2017 and 174 in 2016.  Baltimore experienced 309 homicides in 2018, down from 342 in 2017. Miami experienced 51 homicides in 2018, down from 59 in 2017.

How does all of this relate to mental illness? There is a movement afoot by politicians that suggests the mass shootings are perpetrated by the mentally ill. Even President Trump targeted mental illness as the cause of the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. It is easy to say that someone who kills a lot of people must be mentally ill. The Japanese Kamikaze pilots of WW2 were not considered mentally ill when they flew their aircrafts into American warships in an effort to win the war. As a matter of fact, it was a great honor to die for the Fatherland as a Kamikaze pilot. Nobody has suggested the 09/11 terrorists were mentally ill when they flew passenger aircraft into the World Trade Center. There are some who even believe that these terrorists died as martyr’s and were rewarded for their actions. Soldiers in combat who kill the enemy are not considered mentally ill. They are considered heroes.

What is unique about killing three victims that does not apply to killing only one? Why must the single shooter in Dayton be mentally ill when those that committed the 30 homicides in Dayton in 2017 are not? So, if those who perpetrate homicides are mentally ill, then the standard for criminal culpability must designate these people unfit to stand trial. The M’Naghten rule, which is the standard in for measuring competency to stand trial, states, “at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.” Using the previously discussed definitions of mental illness, someone who commits a homicide would clearly be laboring under a defect of reason and, therefore, unable to stand trial.

So just how are mass shootings and mental illness related? Or are they? Furthermore, is the mere suggestion of a link that does not clearly exist an attempt to legislate gun control? In an August 22, 2019 article titled, “New York’s ‘Redflag’ Gun-Control Measure Goes into Effect this Weekend,” the New York Postoutlined the new gun control measure: “Petitioners must provide evidence that individuals own, possess or have access to a firearm and pose a threat to themselves or others. Applications will be heard and a decision to move forward with a hearing will be made on the same day a petition is filed. If a person is found ‘likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to himself, herself, or others,’ a temporary ‘extreme-risk protection order’ can be immediately issued, effectively blocking the individual from firearm possession or purchase, according to the legislation. Such an order would allow law enforcement to immediately remove any guns from the person’s home.” A mere subtle change in the definition of mental illness could have a wide range of unintended consequences.

I am not suggesting that we do not have a mental illness problem in this country, because we surely do. Newsone.compublished an article in 2013 by Michael Arceneaux that led with, “The three largest mental health providers in the nation are the following jails: Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles County and Rikers Island in New York.” What I am suggesting is that we exercise caution when linking mental illness to mass shootings. There are always unintended consequences. Poorly drafted mental illness legislation, in an attempt to legislate gun control, could lead to those who truly need help not to seek it in fear of government reprisals. An article published in 2017 by Leah Samuel on Statnews.comclaims, “Medicine is grappling with rising levels of physician burnout, one of the factors driving high rates of depression and suicide in the profession. But physicians who suffer from mood disorders are often reluctant to seek treatment — in part because it might jeopardize their license to practice.” Two-thirds of U.S. states ask doctors the broad form of mental health question, “Are you currently diagnosed with a mental health condition?”  This interrogative is included despite the fact that groups including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the Federation of State Medical Boards recommend against asking such a generalized question. The suggestion is that DOCTORS are foregoing treatment for fear of losing their license.  Food for thought.

 

Do We Need Diversity in Congress?

There have been numerous posts, articles, and comments on Muslims in Congress. While I clearly understand the phobia behind these comments, I have to wonder, historically, what are the truths behind these fears. 

This country was founded on immigration. If it wasn’t, you would not be reading this commentary in the language it is written. This country was settled by immigrants who were seeking freedom from a variety of persecutions, including religious persecution. While we were founded on immigration, we have never been overly inclusive or accepting. Our founding fathers nearly decimated an entire indigenous people.  Our founding fathers also brought slaves and the slave trade to this country. The phrase “Chinaman’s chance in Hell” is the result of the White construction manager’s placing no value on the life of a Chinese laborer during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.  Among the more dangerous duties the Chinese were given was the task of placing nitroglycerin charges, a job that had a very high mortality rate. As late as the 19th and early 20th centuries one could see signs that read, “No Irish Need Apply.”  For those of you old enough to remember and for those of you who aren’t, when John Kennedy ran for President of the United States in 1960-61, there was a real fear of a Catholic in the White House. The paranoia was that the Pope eventually would be running the country. To date, Kennedy is the only Catholic ever elected President, and he was assassinated while in office in 1963. 

How many of these paranoias have panned out? The indigenous people of this country are no longer being persecuted; as a matter of fact, some of the most profitable casinos are owned by Native American tribes. The persecution of Blacks in this country has abated. If you truly think Blacks are still being persecuted, read a previous blog entitled, “Is the Criminal Justice System Racists?” The Irish and Chinese have assimilated into our population as have most other immigrant peoples who came to this country for a better life. The Catholic paranoia in Congress seems to have abated, as approximately 30% of the 116th Congress members are Catholic. 

Women were not readily included in our culture in the early history of the United States. They couldn’t own property, they were very limited in what jobs they could hold, and they didn’t get the right to vote until 1920 — 52 years after slaves (males) were given the right to vote in 1868. Now I am not suggesting that Blacks effectively had the right to vote in 1868, but the language of the 14th Amendment granted that right, which was more than White women had at that time. These are just a few examples of our history of lack of inclusion. 

So, this brings us to today. Social media is awash with anti-sentiment directed towards the two Muslim Congresswomen in the 116th Congress. First term Congresswoman Iinan Omar is very outspoken and wears a traditional Hijab. First term Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is also outspoken but does not wear traditional Muslim female head covering. Lumped in this group is first term Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio Cortez. Some social media postings have identified her as Muslim, also. 

What is the problem that has caused these women to be targets, not only in social media, but also from within Republican leadership? Is it the fact that they are Muslim? Cortez is clearly not, she is Catholic. Five-term Congressman Andre Carson from Indiana is also Muslim, but you don’t hear anything about him, either now or in his past five re-election campaigns. Is it the fact that Omar wears a traditional Muslim headpiece? This is an expression of her faith. How is this different from a Catholic wearing a cross or a Jew wearing a yarmulke? Is it because these Congresswomen are outspoken? Is it because these women are first term Congressional members and have not paid their dues? Is it because they are female? Is it because they are Democrats? Is it because they are different? Or, is it because they are all of the above?

These are all questions of introspection. You, gentle reader, must make a value judgement. You make them all the time. Every time you process a piece of information, you make a judgement. Do you have to justify your judgement? NO! You just have to live with it.

If we want our Country’s leadership to continue as it has for the past 200 years or so, then we don’t need any diversity. If we want our country’s direction to be driven by old White guys, then we don’t need any diversity. If we want women to be seen but not heard and kept at home, barefoot and pregnant, then we don’t need any diversity. Data from 2012 indicates that Whites made up approximately 63% of the U.S. population, followed by Hispanics at approximately 17% and Blacks at approximately 13%. The United States is 51% female, but women comprise only 25% of the Senate and only 23% of the House. Women hold more seats in the House and Senate than ever before. Minorities have made advances in the electorate at both the State and Federal levels. There is no reason to believe this trend will not continue. 

We, as human beings, are the aggregate of our life’s experiences. These experiences influence how we approach any situation, which includes our thought process and our decision-making process. Prejudice is learned. There is no prejudice gene. Prejudice is rooted in fear. What we as individuals should do first is to address our own fears and stop blaming what happens on someone else. Maybe then we could move forward as a society. 

 

What Happens When the Police Stop Responding?

What are you going to do when the police don’t come? This seems like more of a rhetorical question than one that needs to be answered, but what would you do? There seems to be a pendulum swinging toward forcing the police to be kinder and gentler. This sounds good until you think about what it is that they do and the consequences of them not doing it. But that can’t happen . . . right? Or can it?

In May 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a ban on high-capacity magazines. This legislation defined a high-capacity magazine as a direct-feed magazine designed to hold more than 10 rounds. An exception to this ban had to do with on-duty police officers. However, an unintended consequence of the law was that it limited off-duty police officers, including those going to and from work, from carrying their pistols loaded.

Rachael Rollins was recently elected as Suffolk County’s (Boston MA) District Attorney. She has published a list of 15 charges for which she will decline to prosecute. These include trespassing, theft under $250.00, receiving stolen property, drug possession with intent to distribute, threats (including domestic violence), and resisting arrest.

In 2016 the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois ACLU reached an agreement to reform what the ACLU described as unconstitutional stop-and-frisk practices. The results of said agreement were an 82% decrease in street stops (which are undercover officers identifying suspicious individuals and stopping them) and a 58% increase in the homicide rate. “If nothing else,” Paul Cassell, a law professor, and Richard Fowles, an economics professor, write in their new paper, their statistical analysis “provide[s] strong evidence of a ‘discernible link’ between declining stop and frisks and the tragic spike in homicides in Chicago throughout 2016.”

The New Hampshire legislature currently is considering a bill that would revoke the legal authority law enforcement officers have to use using deadly force during an arrest. Supporters of the bill suggest they are not trying to tie the hands of the police, but rather to save lives.

In California, lawmakers will consider “The Police Accountability and Community Protection Act” (AB-931) which would raise the current guideline from “reasonable force” to “necessary force,” requiring officers take deadly action “only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death” and, if given all circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative. This legislation provides for a retrospective review of police use of deadly force, which appears to be counter to Graham v. Connor, in which the United States Supreme Court ruled police use of deadly force must be examined through the lens of the police officer at the time.

All of these legislative reactions to public outcries put the police, as well as the community, at an increased risk. So what happens when the police become strictly reactive, where they only respond when requested to do so? What happens when the police increase their response time so that the perpetrator has time to leave the scene? What happens when the police drive by, don’t stop, and don’t get out of the car to investigate?

One may think that the police have to respond. One may think the police have a duty to protect. This is not the case. The United States Supreme Court has consistently ruled that the police have “no duty” to an individual citizen. In Warren v. District of Columbia (1981),the Court ruled, “official police personnel and the government employing them are not generally liable to victims of criminal acts for failure to provide adequate police protection.” In an oft cited companion case, Nicol, the Court ruled, “the fundamental principle that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen.” In Trautman v. City of Stamford (1975), the Court found no special duty was owed the plaintiff, “the allegations of the instant case nowhere assert any conduct directed specifically by the defendant police officers toward the plaintiff individually.”  In Henderson v. City of St. Petersburg (1971), the Court found the police have no special duty to protect an individual citizen unless a special duty has arisen.

The Court has without exception concluded that when a municipality or other governmental entity undertakes to furnish police services, it assumes a duty only to the public at large and not to individual members of the community.

Job requirements change. When I first started policing, we didn’t carry rubber gloves or use pocket masks because we never considered there to be fatal diseased you could catch. We weren’t required to wear seatbelts. We didn’t have body cameras. But the job changes. So, what are you going to do when the police don’t come?

In the eyes of the law, the police are really “crime accountants.” Their job is to observe the aftermath of crimes and record what happened. If they arrive in time and if they feel so inclined, they can lend a hand. But that’s up to them. Citizens have neither the right to police help nor to recourse when it is refused.

Assault Rifle: Myth or Reality

There has been a lot of rhetoric concerning “assault” rifles and their deadly effect. There is no doubt that an “assault” rifle in the hands of someone who knows how to use it can be devastating. All one needs to do is refer to the military for confirmation. There seems to be a question regarding the definition of an “assault” rifle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF&E) is responsible for identifying weaponry for which the civilian possessor must have a tax stamp. These include the M-2 carbine, the M-14, the AK 47 assault rifle, and the M-16. These weapons have the very distinct characteristic in that they all can be fired as fully automatic.

It may be a good thing here to define the terms “fully automatic” and “semi-automatic.” For the purposes of this discussion, we will use the terms “trigger press” and “trigger pull” interchangeably. A “fully automatic” weapon can expel all rounds in the magazine or clip with one press of the trigger. A “semi-automatic” weapon can expel only one round with each press of the trigger. For example, if you have a “fully automatic” weapon with a 30-round magazine, all of the rounds can be expelled with one press of the trigger.  For a “semi-automatic” weapon to expel 30 rounds, the shooter must press the trigger 30 times.

Let’s do some math. An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. A thirty-round magazine provides the shooter with essentially thirty rounds of a .223 caliber projectile (essentially the same as a .22). One trigger press equals one .22 caliber round sent down range. A 12-gauge shotgun round loaded with .00 buckshot holds between eight and twelve .32 caliber projectiles. What this means is with every trigger press of the 12-gauge shotgun, between eight and twelve .32 caliber projectiles are sent down range. To sum up so far, an AR-15 can send one .22 caliber round down range per trigger press while a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with .00 buckshot can send eight to twelve .32 caliber projectiles down range per trigger press.

Let’s expand this a bit. A 12-gauge shotgun round loaded with #4 buckshot will hold between 18 and 24 .25 caliber projectiles. With every press of the trigger, between 18 and 24 .25 caliber projectiles are sent down range. Compare this to an AR-15 which will send one .223 caliber projectile down range with each trigger press.  Some blog sites suggest that #1 buckshot is the most effective home defense round. This is a 12-gauge shotgun round that holds between 16 and 20 .30 caliber projectiles. Again, with each press of the trigger of the 12-gauge shotgun, between 16 and 20 .30 caliber projectiles are sent down range as compared to the AR-15 which can only send one .223 caliber round down range per trigger press.

Let’s expand our math lesson.  A magazine for an AR-15 typically holds either 15 or 30 rounds. You can get larger capacity magazines, but our focus here is what is more often purchased over the counter. Focusing on the 15-round magazine, the shooter can send a total of 15 .22 caliber projectiles down range. A typical 12-gauge “semi-automatic” shotgun (or a pump-action shotgun) will hold between 6 and 8 rounds. Every time the shooter presses the trigger on an AR-15, one .223 caliber projectile goes down range. Every time the shooter presses the trigger on a 12-gauge shotgun, a much larger number of projectiles go down range. With .00 buck, it is between 8 and 12 .32 caliber projectiles, with #4 buck it is between 8 to 24 .25 caliber projectiles, and with #1 buck it is 16 to 20 .30 caliber projectiles.

Table 1

Weapon # of Rounds # of Projectiles Caliber # of projectiles in a 15 round magazine
AR-15 1 1 0.223 15
00 Buck 1 8-12 0.32 120-180
#1 Buck 1 16-20 0.3 240-300
#4 Buck 1 18-24 0.25 270-360

There is a distinct advantage of an AR-15 over a shotgun, that being projectile distance.  An AR-15 can typically shoot farther. As a combat gun, the shotgun is much more devastating in close quarters, meaning within a 75-yard range. However, with limited exceptions, the shotgun is considered a hunting weapon while the AR-15 is more often depicted as an “assault” rifle. This is merely form over function. Some media outlets and certain politicians have portrayed the AR-15 as an “assault” rifle. Some of these same media outlets and politicians have portrayed the AR-15 as an “automatic” rifle. Clearly, neither is the case.

A February 2017 article published on Outdoorlife.comreported that the Associate Deputy Director of the ATF&E, Ronald Turk, “identified ‘assault weapons’ as a politically contrived term with no real meaning.” However, many media zealously have embraced the term, “assault weapon,” which has now become a term both of substance and of reality. The media’s dysfunctional use of the term, “assault rifle,” is literally anything that looks like its military version.

There does not seem to be much discussion regarding hunting rifles that chamber a .223 round, like the AR-15. Some of these rifles are tube fed or magazine fed, with some able to hold numerous rounds. There is no discussion on banning these weapons. There is no discussion on banning 12-gauge shotguns, which can be infinitely more devastating than the AR-15. There is no doubt that a weapon in the hands of someone who knows how to use it can be devastating, be it an AR-15, a 12-gauge shotgun, a crossbow, or a broadsword.

It is imperative to understand the role of the media in these discussions. Their primary function is to sell their product (i.e. getting more subscribers or viewers). This is why the evening news starts with teasers that generally are events of a tragic nature. The lead-in might refer to a residential break-in as a “robbery” because the term “burglary” does not sell well, while “robbery” does. When was the last time you saw a news teaser that was something positive or uplifting? That does not sell: fear sells.

So, when you hear the media or a politician talk about “assault” weapons, remember the facts of firepower. Remember that the media manufactured the term. Remember that they are not interested in educating you. Their interests are in making money by getting you to watch or to read their product. Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

The Electoral College: What Has Changed?

I have read with some interest comments regarding the electoral college and the role it plays in the election process for the President of the United States. It seems that there are those who believe the President should be elected by popular vote, and when the nominee who received the most votes does not win, that candidate was cheated. When this has happened in the recent past, there has been a hue and cry to do away with the electoral college. My question is, what has changed? The United States has never elected a President by popular vote. Again, what has changed? The electoral college has been in use since 1787. Again, what has changed? There are few instances where the nominee who won the Presidential election did not also win the popular vote. Again, what has changed?

Contrary to the belief of some, the United States of American is NOT a democracy. It never has been. We have, in the United States, what is known as a Constitutionally Limited Federal Republic. We have a Constitution that limits the control our representatives have over the people. A “Federal Republic” is a form of government where the people elect representatives to make the governmental decisions including writing laws, controlling the budget, and making foreign policy. We, the people, entrust our elected legislators to conduct the business of State. The general population does not vote on each and every piece of proposed legislation.

The method for electing the President dates back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. There were several alternative methods proposed for electing the President.  These included selection by Congress, selection by the governors of each state, selection by the legislatures, selection by a special group of Members of Congress, and selection by popular vote. The Electoral College system was devised by the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters and was approved by the Constitutional Convention delegates. The purpose of the Electoral College system was to reconcile differing state and federal interests, to provide a degree of popular participation in the election, to give the less populous states some additional leverage in the process, to preserve the presidency as independent of Congress, and to attempt to insulate the election process from political manipulation.

The Constitution gave each state a number of electors equal to the combined total of its membership in the Senate (two to each state, the “senatorial” electors) and its delegation in the House of Representatives (currently ranging from one to 52 members). The electors are chosen by the states “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct” (U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 1).

During a Presidential election, the voters are actually voting for presidential electors. These electors make up the Electoral College. It is these electors who actually elect the President. The only persons prohibited from serving as electors are Senators, Representatives, and persons holding executive appointments. The electors meet in their respective states and cast their ballots as state units. This was implemented in an attempt to prevent manipulation of the process. A majority of electoral votes is necessary to elect. This was intended to insure a broad acceptance of the winning candidate.  In the event of an Electoral College tie, election by the House of Representatives is the default method of election. The only major change to the original Electoral College process was the ratification of the 12thAmendment in 1804. This Amendment enacted separate ballots for President and Vice President, with electors casting a single vote for each office.

The number of electoral votes allotted to each state may change based on the census conducted every ten years. This reapportionment process, which reallocates the number of members of the House of Representatives, reflects the changes in a particular state’s population, may increase or decrease the number of electoral votes as the population of a particular state increases or decreases.

The Electoral College process has changed very little since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787. There have been five Presidential elections where a nominee won the popular vote but lost the election: the elections of 1824, of 1876, of 1888, of 2000 and most recently, of 2016. There have been 58 Presidential elections in the history of the United States. In 53 of these 58 elections (91%) the nominee who won the popular vote also won the election.

So again, what has changed? To answer my own question, nothing has changed, except maybe some people’s understanding and appreciation for our election process. I guess Civics class was important in high school after all.

The 2nd Amendment

I have been a member of the National Rifle Association off and on for about 40 years. I would let my membership expire periodically because of philosophical differences, then I would renew my membership for the same reasons. While I do like my handguns and do support the 2ndAmendment, I am by no means a fanatic. I like to shoot and have shot for a long time. I do carry a concealed weapon as per the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act. I carry it for my protection.  There has been a lot of discussion regarding the 2nd Amendment, particularly when there is an event that focuses on guns: owning guns and using guns. Hopefully, I can add to the discussion in a meaningful way.

It has never been the government’s responsibility to protect the citizenry. As a matter of fact, it is the citizenry’s responsibility to protect themselves, primarily from an oppressive government. This was a founding premise of the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Second Amendment discussions seem to focus on the definition of the term, “well regulated.” Well regulated by whom or what seems to be the crux of any 2nd Amendment conversation.

To get a clear understanding of what the Founding Fathers intended when the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was ratified, we need to re-examine the political climate of the time. The colonies ended an armed revolution from a tyrannical English government in 1776. England attempted to impose the Crown will by using the most powerful and highly trained standing army of the time. The Founding Fathers did not want the centralized power to lie with the Federal Government. The Founding Fathers constructed a Constitution that guaranteed the right of the citizenry to “keep and bear arms” as a check and balance on the standing army which the Constitution gave the Congress the power to “raise and support.” In addition, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was included as an additional level of protection for individual private rights. These Amendments were designed to be a series of “shall nots,” telling the government again, in no uncertain terms, where it could not tread.  “In keeping with the intent and purpose of the Bill of Rights, both of declaring individual rights and proscribing the powers of the national government, the use and meaning of the term ‘Militia’ in the Second Amendment, which needs to be ‘well Regulated,’ helps explain what ‘well regulated’ meant.  When the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the ‘militia’ included all of the people capable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). A “well regulated” militia was a check and balance against a tyrannical government seeking to use the military to keep the populace oppressed.1

So let’s fast forward to today. We, as a society, have put the burden for our existence on the government in an increasing fashion. We continue, in an ever increasing amount, to expect the government to provide for us. The government has attempted to accept this increased burden. My question is this: What is the government’s level of success?

The War on Drugs clearly has been an epic failure. The results of the War on Drugs is eerily similar to the results of Prohibition. Prohibition imbedded organized crime into this country and the War on Drugs, likewise, has embedded drug cartels and gangs into our nation. Neither the Volstead Act nor the plethora of legislations enacted to control drugs has had the desired effect. One unintended consequence of these two epic failures has been the demonstrated propensity for the use of violence. The police, clearly, have not been able effectively to address these issues and the military is expressly prohibited from being used in these circumstances.  The Posse Comitatus Act clearly stipulates that, “it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress.”2

A recent phenomenon is the increased number of mass shootings. We have experienced mass shootings in our schools, our churches, our theaters, and at concerts. Our police officers have been targeted for murder just for wearing the uniform. These brave defenders of “We the People” are themselves becoming targets and victims.

Let’s get one thing straight: it is not the job of the police to protect you. I know that on the side of some cruisers it says, “To protect and serve!”, but the reality is, if the police cannot protect themselves, how do you expect them to protect you? If the police were effective at protecting the people they serve, the murder rate would be zero because the police would be there to stop such crimes! There would be no traffic accidents because the police would be there to intervene prior. There would be no “drunk drivers” because the police would be there to make sure the intoxicated individuals did not get behind the wheels of their respective vehicles. Policing has always been and always will be reactive–something happens, and the police respond. So where does that leave us: the citizenry who are unintended victims (or maybe intended victims) of random and not-so-random violence; the silent majority who go about their everyday existence, but due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, don’t get to go home; the victimized citizenry, who, if they are lucky enough to survive a violent encounter, must wait for the police to respond? This leaves us exactly where it always leaves us, being responsible for our own protection and our own survival.

The 2ndAmendment stipulates that “We the People” must provide for our own protection. Again, when the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the “militia” included all of the people capable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). We all are capable of bearing arms, with limited exception. We all are members of the militia as designed and incorporated in the 2nd Amendment. Maybe what we need is less legislation attempting to skew the language of the Constitution and more enforcement of the Constitution as written.

As Mr. Schultz so eloquently stated, “It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens. The Framers’ writings show they also believed this. As we have seen, the Framers understood that ‘well regulated’ militias, that is, armed citizens, ready to form militias that would be well trained, self-regulated and disciplined, would pose no threat to their fellow citizens, but would, indeed, help to ‘insure domestic Tranquility’ and ‘provide for the common defense.’”1

1 Daniel J. Schultz, The Second Amendment: The Framer’s Intentions. (www.lectlaw.com/files/gun01.htm).

2 The Posse Comitatus Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1385).

Is the Criminal Justice System Racist?

I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to have a discussion about whether or not I thought the criminal justice system was racist. The subject was presented to me in the form of a question from a Black female administrator at a medium-sized university. The question was asked several days after a White police officer fatally shot a Black suspect, and the “usual” responses from the expected societal demographics were inundating the news media and social media.  I was attending a meeting with several other administrators who were also privy to the question. It was one of those “hallway” queries, and I am not sure if there was a motivating factor to the question or if she really wanted an answer. Either way, I did respond.

The criminal justice system is like a triangle. It has three sides: law enforcement, corrections and the judiciary. When you suggest the criminal justice system is racist, you are suggesting by direct inference that all three components of the system are working in concert to promote racism. These three legs of the triangle exist at both state and federal levels.

When you suggest that the criminal justice system is racist, you are implying that police departments are intentionally hiring racist cops — that each step in the selection process is designed to identify and “select in” these prejudiced cops. This means that the recruiting examination is designed to identify candidates who possess and demonstrate racist tendencies.  It means that the psychological evaluations are intended to identify candidates who possess and demonstrate racist tendencies and include these candidates in the selection process at the exclusion of candidates who do not possess such propensities. It means that the polygraph examination is designed to identify candidates who possess and demonstrate racist tendencies. This identification of racist candidates is done for the sole purpose of hiring racists cops. This is done with the explicit or implicit approval of the city council or city commission, the county commission, or, in the case of the state police/highway patrol, the state regulatory commission. All of these political entities have to be on board with the initiative to hire racist cops. If you believe this to be the case, then you are affirming that White police officers, Black police officers, Hispanic police officers, other minority police officers, female police officers, and male police officers are hired specifically because they demonstrate racist attitudes.

When you suggest the criminal justice system is racist, you are also suggesting that Federal law enforcement, including the FBI, the United States Secret Service, the Federal Department of Corrections, the ATF&E, the Border Patrol, and other Federal law enforcement agencies seek candidates, screen candidates, and appoint candidates with the sole purpose of promoting a racist agenda.  This would also include the appointments of the directors of these agencies and the promotions within these agencies.

The second side of the criminal justice system triangle is the judiciary.  If we assume that police officers are identified and selected because of their racist bent, then we must assume that judges also are elected due to their racist bent. The judiciary at the state level, whether it be county court, state court, the state court of appeals or the state supreme court are elected judges. What this means is the state political parties identify candidates for the judiciary that are clearly racist in their leanings. Both the Democratic and Republican political machines identify candidates who will actively incorporate and promote racist agendas in their judicial decisions. Then the candidates have to get elected. So, either the political machines include the racist agenda in the candidates’ platforms, or the political machines are so adept at political promotion that the candidates’ racist agendas never come to light. There is a third option, and that is the political machines believe the American electorate is so thoughtless as not to recognize the racist candidates for who they are and vote for them anyway. Either way, this seems to be a stretch.

The Federal judiciary is a different story.  The Federal judiciary, whether it be the Federal District Court, the Federal Court of Appeals, or the United States Supreme Court, are appointed positions. When a candidate is nominated by the President of the United States, an investigation is conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, the House Judiciary Committee conducts a hearing on the candidates qualifications, and if the candidate meets with the committee’s approval, there is a vote in the United States Senate to confirm the candidate. By suggesting the criminal justice system is racist, you are suggesting the Federal judiciary also holds to a racist agenda. Since these judicial appointments are made by the President of the United States, you are suggesting that all Presidents, including Barack Obama, made these appointments with the implicit and/or explicit purpose of promoting racism within the Federal judiciary. This further suggests that the members of the House Judiciary committee understand the nomination by the President as having racist overtones, and these members also support such a racist platform. It further suggests that the members of the United States Senate also understand the nomination by the President to have a racist bent and that the House Judiciary Committee supports the racist agenda by forwarding the nomination to the Senate. By a vote of confirmation, the Senate supports the lifetime appointment of a racist Federal judge. As prosecutors are an integral part of the criminal justice system, you understand that prosecutors at the state level and prosecutors at the Federal would be elected or appointed using the same racist profiling.

The third side of the criminal justice triangle is corrections. I think you can understand how the hiring process and the appointment process, at both the state and Federal levels, would have to work to promote a racist agenda in corrections.

My final comment to this question was answered as a former police colonel. There are approximately 800,000 police officers in the United States.  If the criminal justice system, in general, and policing, specifically, were truly racist, we would have eliminated you a long time ago.

Again, remember that my questioner was a well-educated individual. Her comment to me was priceless: “I never thought about that!”

 

Concealed Carry on Campus: Is This Much Ado About Nothing?

The typical anecdotal reaction to concealed carry on college campuses is the supposition that there will be mass shootings on every campus; that faculty will be at an increased risk; and that the classrooms will be like Tombstone on Saturday night. An article in the March 4, 2016 edition of  The Chronicle of Higher Education summarized suggestions from the president of the University of Houston’s Faculty Senate to the faculty on steps they should take to protect themselves in response to Texas’ concealed carry law.  These suggestions include the following: “be careful discussing sensitive topics,” “drop certain topics from your curriculum,” and “limit access to office hours.”

A review of the data does not support these anecdotal reactions and do not support the suggestions presented by the University of Houston’s Faculty Senate president. Colorado has had concealed carry on public university campuses beginning in 2003. The Breitbart News Network reports that the only campus incident involving a handgun was an accidental discharge by a faculty member (for which the faculty member was subsequently terminated).

A discussion about concealed carry on a college campus should begin with a few simple definitions. The FBI defines a mass shooting as one with three or more victims in the same incident. An active shooter situation is defined as a shooting where there are three or more victims in a confined area. Shootings in buildings on college campuses are defined as active shooting situations. Virginia Tech may be the most readily identifiable active shooting example on a college campus.

The FBI has designated 50 active shooting situations in the U.S. in 2016 and 2017. It is important to note the timeframes of the FBI report.  Regarding the FBI reports, in an active shooter situation one victim is wounded every 15 seconds.  During the Virginia Tech shooting, however, one victim was wounded every 10.3 seconds.

Active Shooter Statistics

50 designated active shooting situation in 2016 and 2017

34% occurred at a business environment

14% occurred in an educational environment

100% involved a single shooter

22% of shooters committed suicide at the scene

22% were killed by law enforcement

16% were stopped by citizens

FBI: Active Shooter Incidents in the United states in 2016 and 2017 (04/2018).

There are approximately 13 million concealed carry permit holders in the United States.  Only .0002266% of these permit holders have perpetrated an active shooting. The Crime Prevention Research Center reports that from October, 1987 to May, 2014, Florida issued 2.64 million concealed carry permits.  During that time, 168 (.0006%) permits were revoked for a firearms violation. The most common reason for the revocation was carrying a weapon in a gun-free zone.  This is an annual revocation rate of .0002%. Compare this to police officer involved firearms violations from January, 2005 through December, 2007 which was .007%. This percentage difference reflects that police officers commit firearms violations at a higher rate than do concealed carry permit holders.

A very frequent response to legalizing concealed carry on a college campus is the presence of trained police officers. The only time police officers are factors in active shooting situations is when they are very near the shooting scene.  Approximately 70% of the shooting situations are over before the police arrive, so the police are non-factors in these events. The general perception is that police officers are highly trained and proficient with their firearms. In fact, not all police officers are proficient with a hand gun. And not all police officers are well trained. Ohio requires police officers to qualify one time per year and the total rounds fired during qualification is 25. The longest distance police officers in Ohio are required to fire for qualification is 50 feet. Not all police officers like to shoot and therefore, they do very little to no practicing outside of departmentally sponsored qualifications. On the other hand, individuals who have concealed carry permits have them for a variety of reasons: some for self-protection, some for protection of family, and some for other concerns.  One overriding characteristic of concealed carry individuals is that they like handguns. They like recreational shooting, they like training, they like to increase their proficiency. As a result of these likes, concealed carry permit holders practice to be proficient.

At this time in our society, it is naive to think there are not handguns in college classrooms across the U.S. with or without the benefit of concealed carry permits. Citizens with concealed carry permits do not commit gun violations.  Statistically, they commit less gun violations than do police officers. Considering the response time of the police, a concealed weapon may be the only difference between a potential victim and a victim. One final thought: the March 23, 2016 edition of The Chronicle published an article examining the connection between engineering programs and terrorism, yet there has been no uproar suggesting that because of this link, universities terminate engineering programs on college campuses.

What is a Well Regulated Militia?

I have been a member of the National Rifle Association off and on for about 40 years. I would let my membership expire periodically because of philosophical differences, then I would renew my membership for the same reasons. While I do like my handguns and do support the 2ndAmendment, I am by no means a fanatic. I like to shoot and have shot for a long time. I do carry a concealed weapon as per the Law Enforcement Officer’s Safety Act. I carry it for my protection.  There has been a lot of discussionregarding the 2ndAmendment, particularly when there is an event that focuses on guns: owning guns and using guns. Hopefully, I can add to the discussion in a meaningful way.

It has never been the government’s responsibility to protect the citizenry. As a matter of fact, it is the citizenry’s responsibility to protect themselves, primarily from an oppressive government. This was a founding premise of the 2ndAmendment. The 2ndAmendment to the United States Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”Second Amendment discussions seem to focus on the definition of the term, “well regulated.”Well regulated by whom or what seems to be the crux of any 2ndAmendment conversation.

To get a clear understanding of what the Founding Fathers intended when the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, was ratified,we need to re-examine the political climate of the time. The colonies ended an armed revolution from a tyrannical English government in 1776. England attempted to impose the Crown will by using the most powerful and highly trained standing army of the time. The Founding Fathers did not want the centralized power to lie with theFederal Government. The Founding Fathers constructed a Constitution that guaranteed the right of the citizenry to “keep and bear arms” as a check and balance on the standing army which the Constitution gave the Congress the power to “raise and support.” In addition, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was included as an additional level of protection for individual private rights. These Amendments were designed to be a series of “shall nots,” telling the government again, in no uncertain terms, where it could not tread.  “In keeping with the intent and purpose of the Bill of Rights, both of declaring individual rights and proscribing the powers of the national government, the use and meaning of the term ‘Militia’ in the Second Amendment, which needs to be ‘well Regulated,’ helps explain what ‘well regulated’ meant.  When the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the ‘militia’ included all of the peoplecapable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). A “well regulated” militia was a check and balance against a tyrannical government seeking to use the military to keep the populace oppressed.1

So let’s fast forward to today. We, as a society, have put the burden for our existence onthe government in an increasing fashion. We continue, in an ever increasing amount, to expect the government to provide for us. The government has attempted to accept this increased burden. My question is this: What is the government’s level of success?

The War on Drugs clearly has been an epic failure. The results of the War on Drugs is eerily similar to the results of Prohibition. Prohibition imbedded organized crime intothis country and the War on Drugs, likewise, has embedded drug cartels and gangs into our nation. Neither the Volstead Act nor the plethora of legislations enacted to control drugs has had the desired effect. One unintended consequence of these two epic failures has been the demonstrated propensity for the use of violence. The police, clearly, have not been able effectively to address these issues and the military is expressly prohibited from being used in these circumstances.  The Posse Comitatus Act clearly stipulates that, “it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States, as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress.”2

A recent phenomenon is the increased number of mass shootings. We have experienced mass shootings in our schools, our churches, our theaters, and at concerts. Our police officers have been targeted for murder just for wearing the uniform. These brave defenders of “We the People” are themselves becoming targets and victims.

Let’s get one thing straight: it is not the job of the police to protect you. I know that on the side of some cruisers it says, “To protect and serve!”, but the reality is, if the police cannot protect themselves, how do you expect them to protect you? If the police were effective at protecting the people they serve, the murder rate would be zero because the police would be there to stop such crimes! There would be no traffic accidents because the police would be there to intervene prior. There would be no “drunk drivers” because the police would be there to keep make sure the intoxicated individualsdid not get behind the wheels of their respective vehicles. Policing has always been and always will be reactive–something happens, and the police respond. So where does that leave us: the citizenry who are unintended victims (or maybe intended victims) of random and not-so-random violence; the silent majority who go about their everyday existence, but due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, don’t get to go home; the victimized citizenry, who, if they are lucky enough to survive a violent encounter, must wait for the police to respond? This leaves us exactly where it always leaves us, being responsible for our own protection and our own survival.

The 2ndAmendment stipulates that “We the People” must provide for our own protection. Again, when the Constitution was ratified, the Framers unanimously believed that the “militia” included all of the peoplecapable of bearing arms” (Emphasis added). We all are capable of bearing arms, with limited exception. We all are members of the militia as designed and incorporated in the 2ndAmendment. Maybe what we need is less legislation attempting to skew the language of the Constitution and more enforcement of the Constitution as written.

As Mr. Schultz so eloquently stated, “It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens. The Framers’ writings show they also believed this. As we have seen, the Framers understood that ‘well regulated’ militias, that is, armed citizens, ready to form militias that would be well trained, self-regulated and disciplined, would pose no threat to their fellow citizens, but would, indeed, help to ‘insure domestic Tranquility’ and ‘provide for the common defense.’”1

1 Daniel J. Schultz, The Second Amendment: The Framer’s Intentions. (www.lectlaw.com/files/gun01.htm).

2 The Posse Comitatus Act. (18 U.S.C. § 1385).