Incentive for Extortion

Attorney General Sessions wants a return to the federal asset seizure standards that encouraged local law enforcement agencies to summarily seize property from individuals, often simply on the suspicion that the property had been associated with a federal crime.  The perverse incentive? Budget-starved local agencies got to keep most of what they seized, often regardless of whether a federal prosecution ensued, or succeeded.  So agency enforcement decisions in a number of jurisdictions started prioritizing the value of assets in play over the severity of the alleged underlying crime, seizing, for instance, the homes of parents of teenage sons arrested for selling small amounts of marijuana.  Back to the future, says Sessions.

College a Crap-Shoot?

This article disputes how much colleges are responsible for the return on investment (ROI) graduates earn over the course of their careers as a result of the money and time spent earning their degrees.   I expect my student readers will be paying closest attention here, so I encourage them to click into the embedded links, which are key to how the author is constructing his argument.

Corporate Chutzpah

To rescue us all from a depression in 2008, the government threw hundreds of billions in taxpayer funded life preservers to drowning financial firms that had steered hard into the mortgage securities iceberg.  Now the rescued are claiming they were robbed. Chutzpah!  That’s a Yiddish word translated most appropriately here as arrogant gall, such as Lizzie Borden might have displayed by begging for leniency and compensation on the grounds that the murder of her parents had left her a traumatized orphan.

Privatized Lockups Duck Costly Cases

This story is mostly about racial disparity but a subtext is about private operators of contracted out prisons finding ways to leave more costly prisoners in the public system.  This phenomenon also arises in charter schools, many of which manage to have a “special education” population far below the public schools from which they are drawing students.  Competitive models for public services are one thing, but comparing public vs. contractor performance is a dishonest exercise if the game is rigged so that the privateers skim the cream.

Seattle FBI chief abruptly retires (706)

Seattle FBI chief abruptly retires | Local News | The Seattle Times.

Not sure where this story is headed but Ms. Laughlin seemed to have a tumultuous reign at the Seattle office.  A fuller story will likely emergeand students may want to compare some of Ms. Laughlin’s experiences to John O’Neill’s–the “Man Who Knew”–whose story on Frontline we all will be viewing for the “Structure” class.  Note also, as one 706 student reminded us in class a few weeks ago, the strong egos apparently at play in both cases.

Bratton Watch–NYPD

A major move by Bratton in his first month back at the helm of the NYPD: Rookie cops will no longer be assigned to anti-crime operations targeting high crime neighborhoods, because, Bratton says, precinct assignments provide a more-rounded post-Police Academy experience.  Here’s what else the new policy gets at–an entrenched system where vets land in softer assignments because newbies get assigned to the tough ones (shades of urban public schools); and high-intensity enforcement in poor and minority neighborhoods spearheaded by mostly middle-class rookies–both black and white–who, for the most part, are strangers in a strange land.  Talk about a policy that deals with critical variables.

Arrogant FBI

The FBI takes a few star turns in my book Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail. The reasons for that starring role repeat in this story centered on the FBI’s fatal shooting of an individual being questioned in regard to his relationship with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.

Cooking the City’s Books

If this story was only about Detroit, it wouldn’t be so scary. But imagining that bankruptcy-level financial projections are fixable is almost irresistible to all involved–legislators who don’t want to deliver hard news to supporters, executives who don’t want to be remembered as the captain of the municipal (or state) Titanic, budget and revenue officials who don’t want to bring bad news to their elected bosses.  To free-market tea partiers who cluck disapprovingly over governmental sleight of hand, let me say this–Enron, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase.

Coddling Domestic Abuser Cops

Ten years ago in a store parking lot, the Tacoma, Washington police chief, whose troubled domestic history was known to colleagues, killed his wife and then himself in front of their two young kids. This story shows the staying power of attitudes conducive to sweeping police officer domestic violence under the rug.