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I think the City of Minnesota could have handled the negligent shooting death of Philando Castile much better. Rather then criminally charge a hardworking policeman for a rather bad on-duty mistake, the City Attorney should have sought to settle with the family out of court, and provided their estate with prompt justice in the form of a civil settlement payment for the loss of his life.

State Court of Claims are the best agency to remedy a loss of life on behalf of the state. Judges in the court of claims are familiar with the value of a life — both economically and emotionally. They can offer a fair payment that will ensure the estate of person whose life was incorrectly taken on the behalf of state will receive a significant payment. While a large cash payment can not bring back a loved one, it can be used for taking care of the children, providing them housing and food, and pay for their college. It can make sure widow isn’t evicted or goes hungry. Monetary compensation can actually help to remedy the financial harm done.

Now, with any civil suit or out of court settlement, it’s ultimately the taxpayers rather then the incompetent government official that gets socked with the bill. That’s unfortunate, but that’s why any employer in a risky business should have insurance or have a self-insurance reserve, and take steps to minimize future liability. A $5 million payment means that local leaders can no longer afford to repave a road, have as many police officers on the beat, or offer tax relief. This alone should encourage government to improve employee training, and teach their employees not to engage in risky behavior. And certainly, any employee who makes a serious mistake that costs their employers millions of dollars should be fired and forced to reconsider their career options.

That’s my take on the issue. Employee mistakes should be resolved by the employer in civil, not criminal court. 

Should Body Camera Footage Be Controlled By The Police?

"Body cameras are spreading fast through American policing, and they're generating an ocean of video. Axon, a company that provides secure cloud storage for police departments, says it's received more than 4 million hours' worth of video uploads from its clients."

"Almost without exception, those videos are controlled by the law enforcement agencies that created them. Some are now challenging that practice and proposing alternatives."

Police Forces Are Sending A Message To Black Suburban Residents: You’re Not Wanted

"It was a familiar story in Troy — where, over the last six years, at least seven black residents have been acquitted of resisting arrest and then paid by the city over claims of police brutality — and evidence of a nationwide trend driven by demographic shifts shaking the country. As black and brown people leave major cities to raise families in areas that were once predominantly white, they’re encountering police departments that are slow to reflect those population shifts and all too eager to placate longtime white residents who equate change with rising crime. To those white residents, the officers serve as a final line of defense against the outsiders marching onto their land, uniformed allies paid to protect them from the dangers they feel closing in around them."

Murders by County, 1990-2015

This graph shows all the murders that have occurred in New York State from 1990 through 2015, by county. All of New York State has seen murders go down, although in many upstate counties trend in the number of murders has been hidden by the ordinary noise in the data (murders are somewhat random, they don't evenly go up or down by a certain percent every year). When you have 50 murders on a particular year, a handful more murders can totally throw off a long-standing trend. DCJS has more detailed statistics on index crimes, by county and police departments from 1990-2015. There are some reporting differences between these stats and the ones put out for the US Department of Justice, so numbers don't match exactly but are following the same trend.

Data Source: Index Crimes by County and Agency: Beginning 1990. NYSDCJS.

Total Violent Crimes in NYS, 1965-2015

At 75,165 violent crimes committed in New York State in 2015, that is roughly the same as the number of violent crimes in 1967, at 75,124 crimes. In 1967, the state's population was only 17.7 million, compared to the 19.6 million population in 2015. There are 2.1 million more residents in the state. That means the 2015 violent crime rate of 379.8 per 100,000 persons is lower then the 1967 violent crime 409.7 per 100,000 rate of 1967. The rate in 1966 was somewhat lower at 342.6 and 1965 was 325.4. In other words, it seems like most of the 50 year crime wave from 1967-2007 is all but over.

Data Source: NYS Crime Statistics, 1965-2015.

Arkansas Conducts First Execution In Years After U.S. Supreme Court Clears Path

I don't understand the controversy. In 2016, roughly 2.65 million Americans died due to wide variety of factors. Traffic lights sometimes malfunction and tie rods sometimes fail while driving on expressways but we don't require Supreme Court approval to install a traffic light or buy a car. We do take common sense steps to ensure circuit breakers in traffic lights and quality control at automobile factories but we don't get ourselves into years of needless delays. In cases of wrongful death, we give estates the ability to receive financial compensation. Governments should be bonded against wrongful executions to discourage bad court proceedings and protect families but as long as protections exist, I don't think their should be unnecessary delays.

The challenge of maintaining a “normal” rate of crime

"Emile Durkheim upset a lot of people, back in the late 19th century, by claiming that there was a “normal” rate of crime, which society seeks to maintain. He argued that the apprehension and punishment of criminals served a social function, by reaffirming everyone else’s commitment to the social order. In the same way that public rituals serve as a reaffirmation of faith for members of certain religion communities, the punishment of criminals plays the same role for members of society more generally. We find it easier to do our part in maintaining the social order when we have visible evidence that those who fail to do so are being appropriately sanctioned."

"This is why the general public takes such a keen interest in the punishment of criminals, and much less in, say, road maintenance, even though with the division of labour, there are agents of the state whose job it is to make sure that each is done expeditiously. But in order for this reaffirmation of the social order to take place, there must first be a sufficient number of criminals. This is where the “normal” rate of crime comes in – this is the level that is functionally required to maintain social solidarity. Durkheim argued that the crime rate cannot really drop much below this normal level, because if it does, society will respond by criminalizing new forms of behaviour, in order to bring the rate back up."

Race of those Arrested for Crimes (2015)

African Americans are arrested more then Whites for certain crimes. The crime African Americans are arrested for in the greatest proportion is illegal gambling, followed by suspicion of a crime (when combined with Native Americans), Robbery and Murder and non-negligent manslaughter.

Whites in contrast are most frequently arrested to crimes relating to alcohol -- DWI, Liquor Law violations, Public Drunkenness, and a non-alcohol related crime, arson.

Data Source: Table 43, Crime in the United States.

Murders by NY County, 1990-2015

In 2015 there were 2,889 murders in New York State. In contrast, twenty five years earlier in 1990, there were 4,957 murders in New York State. As they say, crime isn't what it once was in New York. The biggest drop in murder occurred between 1993 and 1997, when total yearly murders dropped from 4,393 to 3,211.

Data Source: