Report Says Stop Locking Kids Up for “Status” Offenses….Bratton Named NYPD Commissioner…Why Defendants Accept Plea Bargains….& MoreDecember 6th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
NEW REPORT SAYS THAT LOCKING KIDS UP FOR “STATUS” OFFENSES DOES NOT HELP, BUT DOES DAMAGE—AND MUST STOP
A new report released this week by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, calls for an end to detention for kids who have only committed what are known as status offenses. For those unfamiliar with the term, a status offense is conduct that would not be a crime if committed by an adult—things like truancy, running away, violating curfew laws, or possessing alcohol or tobacco.
The report, which also outlines a set of proposed National Standards for the treatment of status offenders, points to research showing that: ‘…. status offense behaviors are often the result of unmet child and family needs, and that pushing these youth into the juvenile justice system worsens individual and community outcomes.”
You can find the full report here. It contains the proposed National Standards, which have already been endorsed by groups such as the national PTA, the Youth Law Center and more.
BILL BRATTON: THE ONCE AND FUTURE NYPD CHIEF
On Thursday, William J. Bratton was named Police Commissioner for New York City—for the second time Bill Bratton was first hired as the NYPD Chief in 1994, when crime was up and the city was a dangerous mess.
In between his last stint in New York and the new one for which he was just appointed by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, Bratton has, of course, served as the Chief of the LAPD.
In 2002, Boston-raised Bratton took on the position as LA’s top cop at a time when the department was reeling from the Rampart scandal along with the imposition of a federal consent decree. The morale of the department’s rank and file was in the toilet, and the LA communities that were most likely to need police presence harbored a deep distrust and anger toward the force theoretically charged with keeping them safe.
By the time Bratton left in 2009, while the LAPD still had challenges, it was fundamentally changed, as was the attitude of the communities it served. Where there had once been animus, there was relationship.
It will be interesting to see what Bratton brings to New York, the second time around, when the city has been torn by the effect of the existing regime’s stop-and-frisk policies, a version of which BB helped introduce during his first tenure in the 1990s.
At WLA, we were glad to hear of Bratton’s appointment, and are rooting for him.
The NY Times J. David Goodman has a nice, long article on the selection of Bratton, for those looking for more on the topic.
Also, Jack Leonard, Tina Susman, and Joel Rubin of the LA Times have an interesting story about how Bratton courted some of the LAPD’s harshest critics before he arrived in town in an effort to understand the fear and fury directed at the city’s police by so many of LA’s residents.
Here’s a clip:
Weeks before he was selected to be chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bill Bratton was already at work, making the rounds among the city’s black leaders.
One of his calls was to John W. Mack, then president of the Los Angeles Urban League and a man who viewed the LAPD as “an occupation force in our community” prone to “brutality and racism.”
The men met for two hours in Mack’s office. Bratton mostly listened as Mack explained the chasm of distrust and hostility that defined relations between the city’s police and minority communities.
“I told him he had a big mountain to climb because there was a lot of anger and outrage,” Mack said.
Bratton’s seven years leading the LAPD was marked by aggressive, data-driven policing and a significant drop in crime.
But less heralded were his overtures to minority communities and courtship of some of the department’s harshest critics. He took over a department still reeling from racial tensions and the Rampart corruption scandal. When he left, he had succeeded in transforming Mack and other skeptics not just into supporters but partners in his drive to reduce crime.
A NEW REPORT LOOKS AT WHY SO MANY DRUG DEFENDANTS PLEAD GUILTY
Although guaranteed by the Constitution the right to a jury trial, 97 percent of all drug defendants take a plea bargain rather than risk a trial.
In a 126-page report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch, researchers looked at why so many defendants plead guilty, including those who are actually innocent.
Here’s a clip from the press release that accompanied the report:
Federal prosecutors routinely threaten extraordinarily severe prison sentences to coerce drug defendants into waiving their right to trial and pleading guilty, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. In the rare cases in which defendants insist on going to trial, prosecutors make good on their threats. Federal drug offenders convicted after trial receive sentences on average three times as long as those who accept a plea bargain, according to new statistics developed by Human Rights Watch.
“An Offer You Can’t Refuse: How US Federal Prosecutors Force Drug Defendants to Plead Guilty,” details how prosecutors throughout the United States extract guilty pleas from federal drug defendants by charging or threatening to charge them with offenses carrying harsh mandatory sentences and by seeking additional mandatory increases to those sentences. Prosecutors offer defendants a much lower sentence in exchange for pleading guilty. Since drug defendants rarely prevail at trial, it is not surprising that 97 percent of them decide to plead guilty.
“Prosecutors give drug defendants a so-called choice – in the most egregious cases, the choice can be to plead guilty to 10 years, or risk life without parole by going to trial,” said Jamie Fellner, senior advisor to the US Program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Prosecutors make offers few drug defendants can refuse. This is coercion pure and simple.”
AN ELOQUENT PLEA FOR A COP KILLER TO STAY BEHIND BARS
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Police Protective League has predictably (and rightly) opposed the parole of Voltaire Williams, one of the conspirators in the 1985 murder of LAPD Detective Thomas Williams in front of his six-year-old son whom the detective was picking up at daycare.
Detective Williams was reportedly targeted because he was a witness in a criminal case against the killers’ confederate. The killers allegedly figured—do away with the witness, do away with the problem.
It is the motive, rather than the victim, that another letter in the matter of Williams parole primarily addresses. The second letter is written by Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz who prior to going to Riverside, spent 33 years on the LAPD, his last post as Deputy Chief.
Diaz’ letter is worth your time to read as it explains eloquently why this particular decision about this particular parole is important.
You can find the letter here: Voltaire Williams Parole ltr-12022013094536 (2)