Category Archives: Law Enforcement

Police Body-Worn Camera Legislation Tracker

Source: Urban Institute, 2017

Laws governing how and when police body-worn cameras can be used and whether the footage is released vary considerably across the country. Use our legislation tracker, which we will update periodically, to find out more about passed and pending legislation in your state. ….
Police body camera policies: What’s in and what’s out
Source: Nancy G. La Vigne, Margaret Ulle, Urban Institute, January 12, 2017

State policies governing police body camera use are changing as rapidly as cameras are being deployed. About a year ago, we launched an interactive feature that tracks relevant body camera legislation. Since then, legislatures in 18 states passed new body camera laws. ….

Past Due: Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

Source: Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, and Christian Henrichson, Vera Institute of Justice, January 2017

From the overview:
In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable public attention. Because many “users” of the system have very low incomes or none at all, there is growing concern that charging for justice amounts to criminalizing poverty, especially when people who can’t pay become further entangled in the justice system. In 2015, the city spent $6.4 million to incarcerate people who couldn’t pay bail or conviction fines and fees. By focusing on bail decisions and fines and fees assessed at conviction, Past Due, and its accompanying technical report, reveals the costs and other consequences of a system that tries to extract money from low-income people and then jails them when they can’t pay.
Technical Report

The Effect of Police Slowdowns on Crime

Source: Andrea Cann Chandrasekher, American Law and Economics Review, Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Though police strikes have been well studied, there are almost no articles written on the public safety consequences of police work slowdowns—labor actions where police officers reduce their ticket-writing and/or arrest productivity for a temporary period. This article fills the current void by presenting evidence on the 1997 New York City Police Department work slowdown, to my knowledge the longest documented police slowdown in U.S. history. Drawing on several, originally collected data sources from the NYPD and other city agencies, the article assesses the impact of the slowdown on ticket enforcement, arrest enforcement, and crime. The findings indicate that, at least in the context of contract-motivated slowdowns where the union may be motivated to garner public support for pay increases, the effects on public safety may be limited. Specifically, in the case of the 1997 slowdown, ticket-writing for all categories of tickets fell dramatically but arrest enforcement for all types of serious crime stayed the same or increased. Accordingly, the crime effects were mostly concentrated in the area of minor criminal disorder (misdemeanors and violations). Only two categories of serious crime (larcenies and assaults) were affected and those crime increases were minimal.

Arrest-Related Deaths Program Redesign Study, 2015-16: Preliminary Findings

Source: Duren Banks, Paul Ruddle, Erin Kennedy, Michael G. Planty, Bureau of Justice Statistics, NCJ 250112, December 15, 2016

from the abstract:
Provides preliminary results of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) redesign of the Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) collection component of the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program, which was established in response to the Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-297), reauthorized in 2014. The ARD program represents a national accounting of persons who died during the process of arrest, including justifiable homicides by law enforcement personnel and deaths attributed to suicide, accidental injury, and natural causes. This technical report describes BJS’s revised hybrid ARD data collection process using open information sources and detailed official records from law enforcement agencies and medical examiner/coroners (ME/C) offices. It presents an assessment of the open source data collection method and provides preliminary counts of the number of deaths and other information reported by law enforcement agencies and ME/C offices.
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Part of the Arrest-Related Deaths Series

Fatigue and on-duty injury among police officers: The BCOPS study

Source: Desta Fekedulegn, Cecil M. Burchfiel, Claudia C. Ma, Michael E. Andrew, Tara A. Hartley, Luenda E. Charles, Ja K. Gu, John M. Violanti, Journal of Safety Research, New Articles in Press, December 8, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Policing involves inherent physical and psychological dangers as well as occupational stressors that could lead to chronic fatigue. Although accounts of adverse events associated with police fatigue are not scarce, literature on the association between chronic fatigue and on-duty injury are limited. Methods: Participants were officers from the Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) Study. A 10-item questionnaire was administered to assess how tired or energetic the officers generally felt irrespective of sleep hours or workload. The questionnaire consisted of five positively worded and five negatively phrased items that measured feelings of vigor/energy and tiredness, respectively. Total as well as separate scores for positive and negative items were computed by summing scores of individual items. Payroll records documenting each officer’s work history were used to assess occurrence of injury. Poisson regression was used to estimate prevalence ratios (PR) of injury. Results: Nearly 40% of officers reported feeling drained. Overall prevalence of on-duty injury during the past year was 23.9%. Injury prevalence showed a significant increasing trend across tertiles of total fatigue score: 19.6, 21.7, and 30.8% for lowest, middle and highest tertiles, respectively (trend p-value = 0.037). After controlling for potential confounders, a 5-unit increase in total fatigue score was associated with a 12% increase in prevalence of injury which was marginally significant (p = 0.075). A 5-unit increase in fatigue score of the positively worded items was associated with a 33% increase in prevalence of injury (PR = 1.33, 95% CI: 1.04–1.70, p = 0.022). Conclusion: Officers who do not feel active, full of vigor, alert, or lively had a significantly higher prevalence of non-fatal work place injury compared to their counter parts. Practical applications: With additional prospective evidence, workplace interventions designed to enhance level of energy may reduce feelings of tiredness and hence may prevent workplace injury.

• A validated chronic fatigue questionnaire was used to assess fatigue in officers.
• Non-fatal occupational injury was ascertained using objective work history records.
• Injury prevalence was higher in those who do not feel active, vigorous, alert, or lively.

Body Camera Obscura: The Semiotics of Police Video

Source: Caren Myers Morrison, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-17, August 19, 2016

From the abstract:
Our understanding of violent encounters between the police and civilians is now primarily mediated by video images. With surprising rapidity, recording these encounters has become an integral part of modern policing, sparking the current body camera bonanza.

When these recordings are used as evidence in police use-of-force cases, the factfinders must decide whether the police officer’s actions were “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment. But there is an unrecognized fault line between “police video” (video recorded by the police in the course of their official duties) and “eyewitness video” (recorded by bystander-witnesses). Police video tends to recirculate dominant narratives of violence and masculinity as heroic ideals that coexist easily with the legal standard of the reasonable officer. In contrast, eyewitness videos typically offer the counter-narrative of an abusive state.

These images have evidentiary value, but also cultural currency. They reflect back to us our feelings about violence, race, masculinity, and the law. This article proposes a descriptive critique of the use of video evidence in assessing the lawfulness of police violence. Using insights from semiotics, film criticism, cultural theory, and cognitive psychology, it attempts to sketch out a more nuanced way of approaching video evidence in the context of these cases.

Out of Ferguson: Misdemeanors, Municipal Courts, Tax Distribution and Constitutional Limitations

Source: Henry Ordower, J. S. Onésimo Sandoval, Kenneth Warren, Saint Louis University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-14, October 18, 2016

From the abstract:
The matter of police and municipal courts as revenue producers became increasingly prominent following Michael Brown’s death from a police shooting. This article considers the use of misdemeanors, especially traffic violations, for the purpose of collecting substantial portions of the annual operating budgets in municipalities in St. Louis County, Missouri. The article argues that the revenue raising function of traffic offenses has displaced their public safety and traffic regulation functions. The change in function from public safety to revenue suggests that the governing laws are no longer valid as exercise of policing power but must be reenacted under the taxing power in order to remain valid. Constitutional tax limitations in Missouri, however, prohibit the increase of existing or enactment of new taxes without an affirmative vote of the electorate. Municipalities have circumvented the constitutional taxing limitations by using laws enacted under policing powers in violation of the constitution. The police and the municipal courts enforcing traffic laws have produced a racially discriminatory and regressive local tax system that violates the tax limitations of the Missouri constitution.

Police Unions

Source: Catherine Fisk, L. Song Richardson, University of California, Irvine School of Law, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2016-47, September 21, 2016

From the abstract:
Perhaps no issue has been more controversial in the discussion of police union responses to allegations of excessive force than statutory and contractual protections for officers accused of misconduct, as critics have assailed such protections and police unions defend them. For all the public controversy over police unions, there is has been relatively little legal scholarship on them. Neither the legal nor the social science literature on policing and police reform has explored the opportunities and constraints that labor law offers in thinking about organizational change. The scholarly deficit has substantial public policy consequences, as groups ranging from Black Lives Matter to the U.S. Department of Justice are proposing legal changes that will require the cooperation of police labor organizations to implement. This article fills that gap. Part I explores the structure and functioning of police departments and the evolution of police unions as a response to a hierarchical and autocratic command structure. Part II examines the ways in which and the reasons why police unions have been obstacles to reform, focusing particularly on union defense of protections for officers accused of misconduct. Part III describes and analyzes 50 years’ worth of instances in which cities have implemented reforms to reduce police violence and improve police-community relations. All of them involved the cooperation of the rank and file, and many involved active cooperation with the union. Part IV proposes mild changes in the law governing police labor relations to facilitate rank and file support of the kinds of transparency, accountability, and constitutional policing practices that police reformers have been advocating for at least a generation. We propose a limited form of minority union bargaining – a reform that has been advocated in other contexts by both the political left and the political right at various points in recent history – to create an institutional structure enabling diverse representatives of police rank and file to meet and confer with police management over policing practices.

Police services detention centres: a proposed solution for action

Source: Phil Woods, Don Leidl, Lorna Butler, Jason Stonechild & Janet Luimes, Police Practice and Research, Online ahead of print, September 9, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Police services face daily challenges dealing with the health issues displayed by individuals in their custody. They often find themselves isolated from the services that can help the most. This paper scopes relevant literature on these challenges and some of the interprofessional interventions which have emerged to address them, such as the diversionary practices of crisis intervention teams, street triage, nurses in custody suites, and court liaison and diversion. Remote presence technology is proposed to be an innovative solution that can help to provide more efficient and effective pathways for care in Police Detention Centres. Remote presence technology has the ability to significantly affect the way interprofessional collaboration can take place for those in police custody.