In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2017 at 1:51 am

Lori Tankel had a problem: A lot of angry people thought she was George Zimmerman.

She began getting death threats on her cellphone after a jury acquitted him on July 13, 2013, of the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Unfortunately for Tankel, her number was one digit away from the number Zimmerman used to make his call to police just before he fatally shot Martin.

The phone number had been shown throughout the trial. And, believing the number was Zimmerman’s, someone posted Tankel’s number online.

Just minutes after the verdict, Tankel began getting death threats.“We’re going to kill you.  We’re going to get you. Watch your back,” threatened a typical call.

Tankel worked as a sales representative for several horse companies. She had grown used to relying on her phone to keep her business going.

But, almost as soon as the Zimmerman verdict came in, “My phone just started to blow up. Phone call after phone call, multiple phone calls,” Tankel said.

So she did what any ordinary citizen, faced with multiple death threats, would do: She called the police.

According to her, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office told her the department itself receives around 400 death threats a minute on social media sites.

In short: Unless you’re wealthy, a politician or–best of all–a cop, don’t expect the police to protect you if your life is threatened.

If you doubt it, consider the lessons to be learned when, in February, 2013, Christopher Dorner declared war on his former fellow officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

First, above everyone else, police look out for each other.

Robert Daley bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.  A  police reporter for the New York Times, he served for one year as a deputy police commissioner.


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“A great many solvable crimes in the city were never solved, because not enough men were assigned to the case, or because those assigned were lazy or hardly cared or got sidetracked.

“But when a cop got killed, no other cop got sidetracked.  Detectives worked on the case night and day….

“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men.  But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”

Second, don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.

The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families. A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards. And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours

SWAT Team 

By Oregon Department of Transportation (SWAT team preparedUploaded by Smallman12q) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Those details stayed in place long after Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12, 2013.

But if your bullying neighbor threatens to kill you, don’t expect the police to send a guard detail over.  They’ll claim: ”We can’t do anything until the guy does something.  If he does, give us a call.”

Third, the more status and wealth you command, the more likely the police are to address your complaint or solve your case.

If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.

But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, you’ll be told: “We just don’t have the resources to protect everybody.”

Fourth, don’t expect your police department to operate with the vigor or efficiency of TV police agencies.

“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”


Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Real-life police departments, on the other hand:

  • Often lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Often lose or accidentally destroy important files.
  • Are–like all bureaucracies–staffed by those who are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
  • Are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other police departments-–thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.

Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest.  After that, there are at least three possible outcomes:  

  • The District Attorney may decide not to file charges.
  • Or the perpetrator may plead to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence-–or none at all.
  • Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.

Fifth, the result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.

It is the witnessing of blatant inequities and hypocrisies such as those displayed in the Christopher Dorner case that most damages public support for police at all levels.

When citizens believe police lack the ability-–or even the will-–to protect them or avenge their victimization, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.

Police depend on citizens for more than crime tips. 

They depend upon them to support hiring more cops and  buying state-of-the-art police equipment.

When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding.

The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens–as individuals or members of vigilante committees–look only to themselves for protection.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 5, 2016 at 12:07 am

In 1970, New York Mafia boss Joseph Columbo declared war on the FBI.

The Bureau had arrested his son, Joseph Columbo, Jr., for melting silver coins down into silver ingots.  So Columbo, Sr., created the Italian-American Civil Rights League to “combat prejudice against Italian-Americans.”

Columbo appeared at fundraisers and speaking engagements for the League, and gave interviews on talk-shows–such as the one hosted by Dick Cavett.


Joseph Columbo

His message: There was no Mafia–only an FBI slander against decent, hard-working Italian-Americans.

And he sent hundreds of members of the League to picket the East Side offices of the FBI.  

His actions generated a massive response from many law-abiding Italian-Americans who felt themselves the victims of prejudice.

During the 1950s and early 1960s Congress had held hearings on the Mafia, making Italian and Sicilian criminals like Vito Genovese and Albert Anastasia household words.

Even more enraging had been the depiction of Italians as the villains on the popular ABC TV series, “The Untouchables.” Each week, Eliot Ness and his squad of Treasury agents wiped out a new batch of Prohibition gangsters–who had Italian names like Al Capone and Frank Nitti.

On June 29, 1970, 150,000 people attended an Italian-American Unity Day rally in Columbus Circle in New York City. Several prominent entertainers and five members of the House of Representatives attended.

Under Colombo’s guidance, the League grew quickly and achieved national attention, establishing chapters in 17 states with over 50,000 members. 

Shortly after the Columbus Circle rally, then-U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell banned the words “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” (“Our Thing”) from FBI and Justice Department press releases.

“There is nothing to be gained by using these terms,” said Mitchell, “except to give gratuitous offense to many good Americans of Italian-American descent.”

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Seal of the Justice Department

In Albany, New York, then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller instructed the state police to likewise ban such terms.  

And the Ford Motor Company, which sponsored the popular ABC-TV series, “The FBI,” also fell into line. While the Bureau’s real-life agents fought the Mafia, its fictionalized agents couldn’t say “Mafia” on TV.

In the spring of 1971, Paramount Pictures began started filming The Godfather, which was to become the most influential movie ever made about the Mafia.

Facing the threat of strikes and violence from the League, the film’s producer, Albert Ruddy, met with Columbo. Ruddy promised that “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” would not appear in a film in which almost every major character was a member of the Mafia.

TV’s “Mission: Impossible”–having moved from deposing overseas despots to stateside criminals–similarly referred to organized criminals as “The Syndicate.”

But Columbo was now facing increasing pressure from two sets of enemies.

The first was the FBI–whose agents seethed as they strode through League picket lines near their headquarters at Third Avenue and 69th Street. They were waging war on gangsters, and they resented being called liars and racists.

The second was the Mafia itself. Its older leaders knew there was an all-out Federal drive to destroy the organization. And they feared that Columbo’s in-your-face tactics were goading the FBI and other law enforcement agencies into greater efforts against them.

Of those older leaders, Carlo Gambino, boss of the largest and most powerful Mafia family in New York and the country, was the most important.

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Carlo Gambino

Gambino had set Columbo up in his own family in 1964. This after Columbo had raced to Gambino with the news that his own boss, Joseph Bonanno, planned to “whack” Don Carlo and the other four New York Mafia bosses and become the “boss of all bosses” himself.

Bonnano was thus deposed and sent into exile in Arizona, and Columbo found himself a new boss.

Gambino had always lived in the shadows. As Columbo built up the League, Gambino feared that the publicity and attacks on the FBI would rebound against himself and his brethren. 

As the date–June 28, 1971–for the second Italian-American Unity Day rally approached, Gambino quietly put out the word: Stay away.

On that morning Columbo posed for photographers at the rally. Suddenly one of them–a black man–exchanged his camera for an automatic pistol and shot Columbo three times in the head and neck.

Joseph Columbo, after being shot

Seconds later, the shooter was covered by an avalanche of men–one of whom pumped three bullets into him.

The shooter was Jerome Johnson, an ex-con who was linked to mobster Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo. The NYPD and FBI believed that Gambino had given Gallo permission to whack Columbo. And that Gallo had used a black man as the ultimate insult to a man he had long hated.  

Columbo remained in a vegetative state until May 22, 1978, when he died of cardiac arrest.

There was no third Italian-American Unity Day rally. And the Italian-American Civil Rights League died with Columbo.

Eventually, the Justice Department and FBI went back to using “Mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra.”

And when Francis Ford Coppola made The Godfather, Part II, in 1974, he inserted both words into a scene where Mafia boss Michael Corleone is interrogated by a Senate committee.

For the Mafia, at least, the era of Political Correctness was over.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2016 at 12:52 am

On June 12, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old former security guard, slaughtered 49 men and women and injured 53 more inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Mateen was then shot to death by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff.

Omar Mateen.jpg

Omar Mateen

It was the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in American history–and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the Al Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001.

The massacre was widely decried as an act of Islamic terrorism. But many others insisted it was simply a hate crime.

Among those opting for the latter: Officials at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

During his three-hour slaughterfest, Mateen made a call to 9-1-1, pledging his allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

On June 20, the FBI released an edited version of the transcript of that call. All references to ISIS were removed.

The Justice Department claimed that it was withholding some details to avoid putting the victims through any more pain–and to not further the propaganda efforts of ISIS.

A firestorm of protest erupted from Republican Congressional leaders, most notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Since Mateen’s pledge to ISIS had become widely known, they demanded, what was the point of censoring it in the transcript of his phone call?

An additional reason for the fury aimed at the Justice Department: On June 12, ISIS had, through its news agency, Amag, claimed responsibility for the massacre: 

“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida which left over 100 people dead or injured was carried out by an Islamic State fighter.”

Finally, buckling to pressure, on the afternoon of June 20, the FBI released the full, uncensored transcript of Mateen’s call to 9-1-1.

This was definitely not the finest hour of an organization whose motto is: “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”

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Seal of the FBI

It was not, however, the first time the Bureau caved in to the demands of Political Correctness.

This occurred almost 50 years earlier–in 1970.

And the man who was responsible for this was not a member of ISIS. Instead, he belonged to another, equally deadly organization: The Mafia.

Joseph Anthony (“Joe”) Columbo was the boss of the Columbo crime family, one of the “Five Families” of the Cosa Nostra in New York.

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Joseph Columbo

At 45, Columbo was one of the youngest Mafia bosses in the United States.  He was also the first American-born boss of a New York crime family.

But, unlike his fellow bosses, he didn’t hesitate to court publicity–or confront law enforcement.

Summoned for questioning about the murder of one of his “soldiers,” Columbo appeared–without a lawyer–at the office of NYPD detective Albert Seedman.

“I am an American citizen, first class,” he blasted Seedman. “I don’t have a badge that makes me an official good guy like you.  But I work just as honest for a living.”

Naturally, Columbo denied having anything to do with the death of his subordinate.

In the spring of 1970, Columbo decided to raise his sights. He moved from attacking the NYPD to taking on the FBI.

Throughout most of the tenure of its director, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI had avoided tackling the Mafia. From the 1920s until the 1950s, mobsters had operated virtually untouched by the most powerful Federal law enforcement agency.

To this day, Hoover’s reasons for avoiding mob enforcement remain unknown. Theories for this include:

  • He feared his agents would be corrupted by Mafia bribes.
  • He preferred flashy, easily-solved cases like bank-robbery and stolen car rings.
  • The Mob blackmailed him with compromising photos of a homosexual relationship with Clyde Tolson, his second-in-command at the FBI.

Then, in 1961, Robert F. Kennedy became Attorney General. As former chief counsel for the Senate Labor Rackets Committee (1957-59) Kennedy had investigated the Mafia’s infiltration of the nation’s labor unions. He had focused especially on its ownership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Unlike Hoover–who denied the Mafia existed–Kennedy was convinced that it did.

J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy 

And as the brother to President John F. Kennedy, RFK had the power to needed to force Hoover to attack the crime syndicates.

Throughout the country, the Mafia felt a new heat as FBI agents planted illegal electronic microphones (“bugs”) in their innermost sanctums. Agents openly tailed mobsters–and sent them to prison in large numbers.

Most old-time Mafia bosses decided to take a low profile to avoid the new Federal pressure. They remembered how Al Capone had flaunted his wealth and power–and had fallen victim to the IRS for it.

In April, 1970, Columbo’s son, Joseph Jr., was arrested by the FBI for melting down coins for resale as silver ingots. The Mafia boss decided to retaliate.

He publicly declared there was no such thing as the Mafia. This was a fiction created by FBI agents taking out their prejudice on law-abiding Italian-Americans.

Then he sent members of his newly-formed organization–the Italian-American Civil Rights League–to picket the East Side offices of the FBI.


In Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 12, 2015 at 1:11 am

Become a tenant at the Windermere Cay complex in Winter Garden, Florida, and you can check your First Amendment rights at the door.

Its management wants to force new tenants to sign a “social media addendum” as part of their lease.  And if they dare to post a negative online review of the building, they’ll face a fine of $10,000.

But reaction to this attempted muzzling of freedom of speech has been one the landlord probably didn’t expect.

Yelp! has been flooded with negative reviews of the complex.

Among these:

If you are that worried about negative reviews, that just makes me ask one question: What are you hiding?

* * * * *

This complex made national news by threatening a $10k fine to residents if they share a bad review or photo. This legal bullying demonstrates either an oppressive management or a complete ignorance of social media or personal freedom.

In both cases you should exercise caution if considering them and read your contracts carefully.

* * * * *

I’ve got a great business idea. When our customers complain, instead of us fixing the problem we will threaten them with blackmail by asking them for ten grand.

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Sieg Heil Windermere!! Gestapo much???

What century do you people exist in?? I wouldn’t live here if you paid me to. You couldn’t give these units away considering your BS threats to FINE RESIDENTS TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!

WTF is wrong with you people!! Anyone who gets a paycheck from this corporate monstrosity should be fired (or quit if they have half a brain…). Whoever came up with this super clever idea of A 10K FINE should be kneecapped.

* * * * *

Well apparently anyone who lives here will get fined $10,000 for any bad reviews, and any photos posted on reviews are copyrighted to the company by terms of the lease???

This complex is about as dishonest as it gets guys. If an apartment needs a policy like this then what else do you need to know about the quality of the management here.

* * * * *

The owners of the Apartment Complex are literally anti-free speech Nazis.  Don’t move here unless you have $10k in your bank account and don’t believe in the First Amendment.

* * * * *

This apartment complex deserves 0 stars, shame on the management company for deceiving people into signing their addendum.

* * * * *

Be cautious of anywhere that fears the residents’ honest feedback so much that they forbid them from speaking out on social media.  The energy spent on creating this stupid 10K clause could have been spent on actually creating an enjoyable living experience.

Click here: Windermere Cay – Apartments – Yelp

The sudden onslaught of bad publicity obviously caught the complex by surprise.

When contacted by Ars Technica, the online magazine that had exposed this outrage, a manager disclaimed the contract:

“This addendum was put in place by a previous general partner for the community following a series of false reviews. The current general partner and property management do not support the continued use of this addendum and have voided it for all residents.”

This despite the fact that the addendum had been given to a tenant to sign just a few days before.

Not only have these strong-arm tactics yielded a tidal wave of bad publicity, such an addendum would be legally unenforceable.

For starters, it’s a blatant violation of the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of speech and the press.

States have taken struck down efforts by businesses to censor the written opinions of their customers.

In his 2003 decision in New York vs. Network Associates, a judge ruled that telling customers they couldn’t publish reviews of software “without prior consent” violated New York’s unfair competition law.

Americans all-too-often take their Constitutionally-protected freedoms for granted–until they travel abroad to nations ruled by dictators.  Or until they encounter would-be dictators at home.

Harrison E. Salisbury, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, faced the difficulties of censorship during his years as Moscow bureau chief for The New York Times (1949-1954).

Harrison E. Salisbury, with the Kremlin in back

Salisbury found he couldn’t rely on the Soviet government for reliable information on almost everything.  Crime statistics weren’t published–because, officially, there was no crime in the “Workers’ Paradise.”

Unable to obtain reliable economic statistics, he plotted the rise and fall of the economy by shortages and surpluses in local stores.

Above all, Salisbury faced the danger of reporting accurately on the increasing paranoia and purges of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

“The truth, I was ultimately to learn,” wrote Salisbury in his bestselling 1983 memoir, A Journey for Our Times, “is the most dangerous thing.  There are no ends to which men of power will not go to put out its eyes.”

Censorship victimizes both those who are censored and those who could profit from the truths they have to share.

Americans may be unable to bring freedom of expression to nations ruled by dictators. But they can–and should–fight to ensure that freedom of expression remains a hallmark of their own society.


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on March 11, 2015 at 11:40 am

Americans have a history of fearing what foreign dictators might do to them.

During World War II they feared that the Japanese Empire might turn them into a nation of Japanese-speaking slaves.

During the Cold War, TV ads often reminded Americans that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev once said: “We will bury you.”

Today, Americans–especially those on the Right–fear Iranian Ayatollahs will force them to wear turbans and quote the Koran.

Strangely, few Americans seem to fear the ayatollahs much closer to home: Landlords.

The power of landlords calls to mind the scene in 1987′s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years.

Even in San Francisco–the city misnamed as a “renter’s paradise”–landlords are treated like gods by the very agencies that are supposed to protect tenants against their abuses.

Many landlords are eager to kick out long-time residents in favor of new, wealthier high-tech workers moving to San Francisco.  An influx of these workers and a resulting housing shortage has proven a godsend for landlords.

In July, 2014, a 98-year-old San Francisco woman faced eviction from her apartment of 50 years, because the building’s owners wanted to sell the place to take advantage of the city’s booming real estate market.

“I’ve been very happy here,” Mary Phillips told KRON 4, an independent San Francisco TV station. “I’ve always paid my rent.  I’ve never been late.”

The landlord, Urban Green Investments, sought to evict her and several other tenants through the Ellis Act.  This is a 1986 California law that allows landlords evict tenants to get out of the rental business.

Urban Green Investments has bought several buildings in San Francisco, evicted their residents through the Ellis Act, and resold the buildings for profit.  Many of those being evicted are low income families and seniors.

Phillips vowed to fight her eviction: “They’re going to have to take me out of here feet first,” she told KRON. “Just because of your age, don’t let people push you around.”

Phillips said she has nowhere else to live, and she and her attorneys fought the eviction.  They did so not only through the courts but ongoing street protests.

Those efforts paid off in November, 2014. As part of the resolution of her case, Phillips released the following public statement:

Mary Elizabeth Phillips has reached an agreement with Urban Green Investments that will allow her to live in her apartment for as long as she likes, through the end of her life.

“Mrs. Phillips appreciates the support she has received from the community over the past year, and she requests that interested people please respect her privacy so that she may peacefully enjoy her home. Thank you.”

That case, at least, had a happy ending.  But tenants at an apartment complex in Winter Garden, Florida, may not prove so fortunate.

The Windermere Cay has forced new tenants to sign a “social media addendum” that threatens a fine of $10,000 if they give the complex a bad online review.  It also forces tenants to sign away their rights to any photos, reviews or other material about the apartments that are posted online.

The Windermere Cay

The addendum went viral on March 10 after at least one tenant shared it with the online magazine, Ars Technica.  It reads in part:

“In the event that this Social Media Addendum is breached by any or all of the Applicants for any reason, the Applicants shall be jointly and severally liable to pay Owner liquidated damges representing a reasonable and good faith estimate of the actual damages for such breach.

“Owner and Applicants agree that, in the event of a breach, Owner’s damages would be difficult to ascertain.

“Accordingly, Owner and each Applicant agrees that the amount of compensation due to Owner for any breach of this Social Media Addendum will be $10,000 for the first such breach, and an additional $5,000 for each subsequent breach….

“In the event of breach, the Applicants will pay the liquidated damages owed to Owner within ten (10) business days of the breach.”

In addition, there is this: “Applicant will refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing negative commentary regarding the Unit, Owner, property or the apartments.

“This means that Applicant shall not post negative commentary or reviews on Yelp!, Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog.”

The reaction to this attempted muzzling of freedom of speech has been one the landlord probably didn’t expect. Yelp! has been flooded with negative reviews of the complex.

One five-star review–obviously written tongue-in-cheek–was signed “Adolf H[itler]” and praised the complex for having “my kind of management.”

There will be more about online reaction to thie latest attempt at landlord censorship in Part Two of this series.


In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on October 18, 2013 at 2:15 am

Bill was visiting Daly City when he got threatening call from a stranger.

A resident of San Francisco, he filed a complaint with his local police station as soon as he returned to the city.

But then an Inspector named Jones told him: “You need to also file a report with the Daly City Police Department.  Otherwise, we can’t help you.”

So Bill called the Daly City police–and was quickly told he didn’t need to file a report, since he had already filed one with the San Francisco Police Ddepartment (SFPD)

Angered, Bill decided to make a complaint. He dialed the main number and said, “Chief’s office, please.”

Bill didn’t expect to speak with the chief, Greg Suhr.  Speaking with one of Surh’s aides would be enough.

Police departments are quasi-military organizations, where hierarchy counts for everything.

A sergeant-secretary answered the phone.  Bill outlined what had happened–and didn’t hide his anger at having been blackmailed at a time when he most needed help.

The Chief’s secretary was sympathetic, took Bill’s number, and promised to get back to him soon.  A few minutes later, he called back.

The secretary said he had spoken with Inspector Jones, who had tried to trace the phone number of the person who had threatened him.  But that hadn’t been possible.

The number went to a Google phone exchange, which could be used by callers who didn’t want to reveal their actual number.

The next time Bill spoke with the Inspector, he detected a more helpful attitude.  Still, no one in the SFPD offered Bill any advice on how to deal with an unprecedented situation.

Bill again visited a local police station.  He  brought a detailed, written account of who he suspected might be responsible for the threat.

Inspector Jones accepted it.  Bill asked what would happen next.

Jones said he would forward Bill’s report to the District Attorney’s office.  They would then decide whether to prosecute.

Bill continues to remain uncertain–of the danger he faces, of what police and prosecutors might do on his behalf.  He remains alert whenever he goes out, but that’s all he can do.

Unlike celebrities, he can’t afford bodyguards.  Unlike public officials, he can’t count on round-the-clock police protection.

When dealing with police, it’s best to remember the following:

Above everyone else, police look out for each other.

Robert Daley, a police reporter for the New York Times, spent one year as a deputy police commissioner.  He bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.:

“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men.  But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”

That’s why the Mafia didn’t kill cops.  Only sucidal people took on those odds.

Don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.

In February, 2013, a fired LAPD cop named Christopher Dorner declared war on his former colleagues.

The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families.  A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards.  And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.

And those details stayed in place until Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.

Money makes the difference.

Police claim to enforce the law impartially.  But that happens only in TV crime shows.

If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.

But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, your case will likely go nowhere.

Don’t expect your police department to be as efficient as those in TV police dramas.

“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

But in San Jose–a city close to bankruptcy–residents can’t get police to respond to break-ins because the police department is dangerously understaffed.

And in San Francisco, if you’re assaulted and can’t give police “a named suspect,” they won’t assign the case.  As far as they’re concerned, the solvability rate is too low.

Among the realities of real-life law enforcement:

  • Many police departments lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Files often get lost or accidentally destroyed.
  • Some officers are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
  • Police are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other officers or other police departments–and thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.
  • Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest.  The perpetrator may cop to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence–or none at all.  Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.

The result of all this is disillusionment with law enforcement from a deservedly–and increasingly–cynical public.


In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Self-Help on October 17, 2013 at 1:50 am

On TV, if an innocent citizen is threatened by a criminal, the cops spare no expense protecting him–or her.

If s/he’s really lucky, s/he’ll get protection from no less than the Top Cop HImself–such as Steve McGarrett (on Hawaii Five-O) or Elliot Ness (on The Untouchables).

If you think that’s how real-life cops operate, you’re in for a shock.  Especially if you have to entrust your life to them.

Consider the case of a friend of mine I’ll call Bill.

Bill was shopping in a Home Depot in Daly City when his cell phone rang.  Assuming it was someone he knew, he casually answered it.

The caller proved to be someone he didn’t know.  More ominously, it was someone he wouldn’t want to know.

“You got my friend kicked out,” he said.  “And I’m going to get you.  I know who you are and where you live.”

Bill explained–truthfully–that he hadn’t gotten anyone kicked out.  For a few moments he had no idea who the caller might be talking about.

Then he remembered: About two months earlier, an aggressive psychopathic tenant had been evicted from his apartment building.  Bill hadn’t had anything to do with the eviction.

True, the property management company supervising the complex had tried to recruit him to testify in a lawsuit against the psycho-tenant.  But Bill had wanted nothing to do with the case.

There were some risks just not worth taking–especially when a man who routinely threatened others lived only two floors below.

Still, the tenant had clearly been told by someone else that Bill had played a role in his eviction.  Just days before he was to move out, he shouted at Bill: “I’m being evicted, and you’re responsible for it!”

The next day, by unfortunate coincidence, Bill again ran into the psycho-tenant, who shuted: “I’m being evicted, and I’m sure that makes you happy!”

So now, as Bill listened to the unknown caller making his threat, he felt 99% certain that even if he didn’t know the caller, he knew the man on whose behalf he was calling.

Bill stayed calm, trying to draw the caller into giving some specific information.  But the caller refused to be tempted, and Bill hung up.

Thinking it over, Bill was worried: His cell phone number was known to only a few people–and certainly not to the evicted tenant.  Someone had clearly gone to a great deal of trouble to find it.

For the moment, he took some heart in that the caller’s number showed up on his cell phone.  No doubt the police could quickly trace it, he assumed.

(He soon found out they couldn’t.  The number was to a Google phone exchange, which could be used by callers who didn’t want to reveal their actual number.)

As soon as Bill returned to San Francisco, he visited a police station and made out a report to a uniformed officer.

Later that day, he called the station to provide more information.  He was connected to an Inspector Jones (not his real name).

In the police world, an Inspector is a figure of real authority and prestige.  The word “inspector” will open doors that may well be closed to other police officers.

So Bill assumed he was dealing with the elite of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD)

To his surprise, Jones asked if he had filed a report of the incident with the Daly City Police Department.

“No,” Bill said.  He had simply been visiting Daly City when the call came in.  No one had assaulted him in Daly City  And he believed the call had almost certainly come from San Francisco.

“Well,” said Inspector Jones, “you must file a report with the Daly City Police Department.  Otherwise, we can’t (that is, won’t) help you.”

Bill asked: ” Can I make the report over the phone?”

“No,” said Jones, “it has to be made in person.”

Bill: “I don’t have a car.  I don’t know where the Daly City Police Department is.”

“Well, we can’t help you until you do it,” said Jones.

So Bill called the Daly City Police Department.  A female officer soon came on the line.  Bill outlined the reason for his call.

“Did you file a report with the SFPD?” the officer asked.

“Yes,” said Bill.

“Then you don’t need to file one with us,” said the officer.

“Are you certain?” asked Bill.


Now Bill was not so much worried as angry.  He re-dialed the SFPD–but this time, at a far higher level: The Office of the Chief of Police.

he didn’t expect to speak with the Chief himself.  But that wasn’t necessary.  It would be enough for him to reach someone who worked directly for the Chief.

Police department are quasi-military organizations.  They are rigidly hierarchial.  At a police station, a captain wields Godlike authority over everyone beneath him–detectives, sergeants, uniformed officers.

And if a captain wields Godlike authority over his subordinates, the Chief is the uniformed version of God to everyone else in the department.

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