Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A good day.

1. I got paid to shoot for three and a half hours, yesterday. I shot ammunition that I didn't pay for.

2. A cold front came in yesterday. The high was 78 degrees.

3. I had lunch with my father yesterday. We had Indian food. It was delicious and inexpensive and filling.

4. I took a nap.

5. After taking my kid to a meet-the-teacher thing at the middle school, I got home to find that my wife had fixed a superb green-chiles-and-rice dish.

6. I ended the day at home with an adult beverage or two, of higher quality than is commonly found.

I'm calling it: Best Day Of Summer, 2015.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Brady disclosure.

In 1963, the US Supreme Court ruled (quite correctly) in Brady v. Maryland that any and all evidence collected and/or held by the state in a prosecution is to be passed on to the defense. To fail to forward all of it to the defense would result in a lack of due process, which at the minimum would guarantee that the defendant's case would be dismissed. Over the years, this has come to some interesting ends. For one thing-- if an officer investigating a criminal case takes 32 photographs of the exact same thing, but only 1 of the pictures is in focus, all 32 still must be included in the case file turned over to the defense.  The thought is that the first or the 31st picture might well have contained a shred of evidence which would have led toward the defendant's case.

For a prosecutor to possess information which could be exculpatory and not turn it over is not only grounds for dismissal of a case, it is grounds for civil, administrative, and even criminal sanction against the prosecutor himself.

This led to Brady Lists.

Occasionally, there are times when what the state's witness on the stand testifies to and what the prosecutor knows to be true don't line up. Maybe the witness was in error. Maybe the prosecutor's grasp of the facts were in error. Maybe a document which the prosecutor briefed himself with was in error. Or, sometimes, the witness just lied. When the prosecutor knows that a witness doesn't tell the truth on the stand, he cannot in good conscience put that officer on the stand again. Over the years, it became a practice for district attorneys to draw up forms which they had their Assistant D.A.'s fill out about questionable police witnesses. If an officer's name was on the Brady List at a DA's office, then the DA would either look for another officer with knowledge of the case to testify, or would dismiss the case. Presumably, they would also consider turning over their knowledge of the officer's alleged misdeed to the defense, if they had to go forth with the case.  But it didn't happen, because those lists were kept secret for a long while.

Until recently. Dallas County's list was just published, and Tarrant County just sent out disclosures about their lists to a bunch of defendants.

So it was that, a couple of weeks ago, my chief sent me a text:
"See the local paper's article [about the existence of Brady lists in our county DA's office]. Let me know if you think I should contact the DA office." 
I immediately replied: 
"Yes. You should. If we have an officer on staff whom our DA has deemed untrustworthy enough not to back, you need to know about it. Even as uncomfortable a topic as that is to contemplate."  
I went on to assure him that I doubted that we had anything to worry about.

I promptly forgot about the conversation until Friday, when the chief called me in and asked me with a stony face whether I had been worried about what the DA would say. I told him, quite honestly, that I hadn't been. I know that I rely on the other men in my department, and I know who they are, and know that they would not fudge the truth, even when it damns them. I would bet my life on it.

He smiled and told me that none of our officers in our small (less than 10 man) department was on the list, and that ours was one of the only departments in the county without a person on the list. I smiled with pride at the first part, but was a bit saddened and a little shocked by the second part of that sentence.

I have heard that some of these lists got combined with grading lists on whether the officer was a good testifier (Did he speak clearly, did he stumble over words, did he seem unsure of himself or frightened of the courtroom? Did he wear an inappropriate tie?), and thus it could turn out that an officer on such a list might have made only the error of being a shy person with bad taste in tropical neck apparel. I don't know if that is true or not. I do know that these lists are made and added to by young prosecutors who don't have to prove up their case. While some police unions and advocacy groups have questioned them, however, they have been upheld by courts. Getting one's name on such a list, ironically enough, brings up the whole question of due process again (which is how the whole Brady issue got started.). So, the best thing for an officer to do is to avoid all appearances of impropriety, and state only that which is known, and never, ever, EVER try to "wing it."

Okay, I'll admit that I'm a little bit proud of my department. But I'm not going to break my arm patting ourselves on the back about it.

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My daughter's senior year begins.... Now.

To lots of people, the summer doesn't end until September First, or the observance of Labor Day, or when regular school is back in session. But when your child is in band, it starts earlier.

My elder daughter is a senior in high school this year, and is a drum major in the band. Today is the first day of band camp. Even though she has some kind of stomach ailment, she is fighting through it, and put together materialsm and cupcakes (hopefully safe?), and her water bottle and color-coded cards to give notice from across fields, and sunblock and sunglasses and her ever-present whistle (nicer than mine)-- all to get to school a half-hour early for the day.

This kid has been sleeping in until noon or later the last couple of weeks, staying up reading and watching movies with her sister. And she's been dating a little bit. But, she's been practicing her horn obsessively for the last month. She took a week earlier in the month and went to an elite drum major camp.  She's been working on summer assignments for her honors English, Math, Biology, and Spanish AP courses. We've been getting her into dual credit classes and getting her car set up for the school year, which basically for her starts today.

Here. We. Go.

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

239 years ago...

A group of men decided to sign a document declaring that they were citizens, and no longer subjects. This document started with a list of strident complaints against a man who was arguably the most powerful man in the world, and who believed he had a claim over their provenance. The subject and recipient of that document had standing troops in their homeland, and the resources to send many, many more.

Think about that, the next time you're reluctant to churn out a memo at work which points out an error made by your boss.

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old tools

Way back in the day (30 or 40 years back), my Dad made up a transport belt. It wasn't much-- it was just a large leather belt with a large brass ring tacked on with a strip of leatherr and two rivets. He kept it all through his years as an investigator. While clearing out a storage unit of his recently, I saw it and asked if I could have it, since he's retired now. The other day, I put a large prisoner into it before putting him into my car. It's simple: you just buckle buckle behind him, with the belt passed through the brass ring in front. Then the handcuffs are passed through the brass ring, and his hands are cuffed in front. It's very safe, but FAR more comfortable to the prisoner. I am a fan of not hurting my prisoners.
A few days ago, I had a low-risk warrant to serve on my day off. I put on some blue jeans and a department polo shirt and an ID card, and put my pistol on my hip. I reached into my sock drawer, and got Dad's old sheep's leather 'cuff carrier from his days as an investigator, and put my cuffs into it, and looped it over my belt. It all went swimmingly, and the guy got booked in, in no time flat, without pain or injury. 

Dad's old leather is still working. 

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Monday, April 20, 2015

This is what class looks like.

Longtime online pal Marko Kloos is so classy, he even apologizes for being a little rude when he correctly identifies a rude individual.

Winning a Hugo, up to now, has always been very valuable for a science fiction writer.

If you're like many of us, you want to find a magical story that will divert you from the drudgery of reality, without having to wade through the crap. Just give me the good stuff. So, it's incredibly alluring to see that list posted up on the wall of your local book store with the Hugo winners by year. I've been guilty of having perused the list, found a title that I haven't yet read, and pulled it off the shelf and immediately gone to the cash register. It's that simple: I didn't have to read the slush pile.

I know that I'm not the only one. As do smart people like... well, like Marko Kloos.

Marko, however, found himself in a very weird situation. He had written a very compelling page-turner, which would have found itself in the running for a Hugo anyway-- but which was pushed to the short-list by an unsavory person.

Vox Day, AKA Theodore Beale, is not a person I would invite into my home. He is racist. He is misogynistic. He was expelled from the Science Fiction Writer's Association because of his attacks on fellow writers based upon their race and gender. He is bitter. The funny thing is, the man can write. If he weren't so obnoxious, he probably would have won something by now. But there are lines which you cannot cross without having some backlash, and he crossed them. He will never win an award in science fiction.

To make up for this, Beale/Day came up with a scheme: pack the nominations. Campaign on fairness! Your favorite writers have no chance to win, through no fault of their own! Though they have wrought the best stories, their only sin is that they are white males!  The P.C.-minded establishment wants a multicultural field of nominees, at the expense of Quality! Hell, it sounds good. We all just want the best writing. Who cares what color or gender the author is? We all hate reverse discrimination, because it's just another kind of discrimination, right?

When I saw that online pal and best-selling author Larry Correia was being labeled as a racist (!) and misogynist himself, I began to think, Yeah, I can understand why you'd get ticked about these things. Larry's a good man. Larry is not a racist. He may be a conservative, but he's not a woman-hater. Larry's writings depict strong woman characters, multiple cultures in his good guys... anyway, you get the picture.  So Larry's corner started up a little group called the Sad Puppies. And frankly, I was on board.

Then Vox Day starts up the Rabid Puppies. He endorses a group of authors for Hugo nominations, and they get short-listed. Marko Kloos was one of the authors.

For a few days, it was heady times at Castle Frostbite. Think about this: You're nominated for the Hugo --one of the most well-known awards in your profession*-- and word is that you've got a very good chance of winning it. Heinlein won that award. Asimov won that award. Clark. Le Guin. Dick. Niven. Haldeman. Gibson. Card. Those are the giants on whose shoulders you will get to stand. I'm not gonna lie: I'm giddy just knowing a guy who gets to have his name mentioned in the same lists as those people.

The same rocket ship badge that is on every paperback of Stranger In A Strange Land could be on your books.

But then comes the crashing reality, which is that people would associate your nomination with the unsavory person who put your name on a list that he advocated be nominated.

Some stains you can never wash clean of.

So Marko, faced with that situation, quit. He pulled his book Lines Of Departure out of the running.
He took his ball (which he was winning with), and went home to Castle Frostbite.

Drop the mic.

He'll write more. And we'll get to read it. But when he takes the awards, it will be on his terms, and not via some shady deal co-opted by a shady jerk.  Hey, Vox? Marko was never your kind of people.
*Though, apparently, not really as critically-judged as you might hope. "Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon..." LawDog writes on his disappointment about the process.

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

This is not who we are.

This is indefensible.

This is abhorrent.

No police officer can defend this action by Michael T. Slager, formerly of the North Charleston, S.C. Police Department. Happily, I haven't seen a single officer try to.

Go to 1:35 in the video, and watch as Slager tosses a black object down next to the body. Immediately after cuffing the dying man, he is seen jogging back to where the struggle began, and at 1:08 he picks up that object. I will bet you a month's worth of paychecks that the object is a Taser. I've seen them and handled them for years. It is a gun-shaped black item, seen when he drops it to be a figure L.

So, seconds after the shooting, Slager is tampering with the scene. Hell, that's a third degree felony here in Texas.

And about that shooting. Even before Tennessee v. Garner (1985), this wouldn't have washed with regard to the Fleeing Felon doctrine.  But even if it were legal, it isn't right. You don't kill a man whom you have identified, just because of brief struggle and he ran away.

That video is hard to watch, but I'm so glad that it was made, and released. Because it will help us seek justice. It won't be enough, but it never is, in any shooting of any human.

That's not us.

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Friday, April 03, 2015

Work Stuff.

--I got called in on my day off. A woman had been threatened by her boyfriend. I took the report. During the time that I got her statement, I learned from the victim that he had struck her in the face, breaking her nose months ago. She had hidden it from her family and friends, and stayed with him. Her late previous boyfriend had also beat her up, and been convicted of it. It may not have helped my case, but I stopped in the middle of the interview to tell her:

"I don't care what you've done in your life which makes you think that you don't deserve better-- you deserve not to be victimized. You should have the expectation not to be struck by someone who says that he cares about you. It would appear that you don't think that you're worth that, but I assure, you are worth that. Your children deserve not to grow up believing that this is normal. It's not normal, and you must rear them to not put up with it. The only way that they will take that to heart is to see you not put up with it." 
She was crying at this point. Well, it was a thought worth crying over.

--I got a warrant for a search of a house. The actor was a violent felon, who had guns and was part of a drug distribution ring. Because we didn't want anyone hurt, we used a nearby SWAT team. Yes, I could have been part of the warrant service, but I don't train on this every day, and they do. I made clear that I did NOT want a no-knock warrant. (Per my philosophy on this issue.) They knocked, announced, and then used a distraction device to the back of the house before hitting the door. They weren't home. We seized some evidence, and left a list of what we seized. Our felon absconded, with a felony warrant in his wake, which is really as good as if he had been home. Better, even: he's gone away. Let him run.

--I learned of a warrant extant for a violent man who had stopped in our town at a local convenience store. He was a former member of one outlaw biker gang, and was a prospect for another. This second OBG is a much larger one, and was one which made threats against my father and his family, back in the '70s when I was a kid. (I wasn't permitted to ride my bike on the street until I was about 11. You know how much that sucked, in a country community without sidewalks?)  I found the guy, and verified his warrant, and arrested him and found some contraband on his person when I did so. I impounded his motorcycle, which belonged to the club. One of the clubmembers was present when I went about this, and I had to address him in a sharp tone. I have been told that I have inspired the ire of the club. Oh well.

--I have been trying to make peace between two families in town for years. They have squabbled, and I have listened to both sides. Neither can see the other's point of view. I have reached out to both sides, asking for understanding. Finally, one of the sides came to us and said that they would be willing to come to our peace talks. So, my chief and I are going to moderate some kind of neighborhood arbitration. We'll see how this goes. I'll admit that while I know what I want, I'm not sure that I'm skilled at getting us there. This is new to me. But if we can pull this off, we will have stopped a feud which has plagued the lives of people in two households for more than half a decade.

--I have trained up two rookies in the past 6 months. On the last day of Field Training Officer preceptor-ship, I told both of them a variation of this short speech:
"I was part of your hiring process. I know you, warts and all. I have ridden with you by my side for weeks and weeks, often in the middle of the night. I trust you. I trust you so much, that I am willing to let you be responsible for my family's safety. You won't have me looking over your shoulder to tell you what to do, anymore. That can sometimes make it hard to do the right thing. I'm probably badly paraphrasing C.S. Lewis when I say, 'Ethics is doing the right thing when there is no one there to see you do it.'  Your integrity is the most valuable thing that you own, and it may be sold, only once, and very cheaply. Guard it with your life." 
--One of the most valuable pieces of paper hanging up in our P.D. is a Post-It note which my chief put up a couple of years ago which says: "Don't be afraid to be somebody." It is hanging on the monitor of one of my co-workers' computers. I'm thinking of matting it and framing it.

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