Friday, July 30, 2010

Step 41 - Reduce The Rewards of Crime

For a number of months I have been walking chapter by chapter through the book Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers. A few chapters back, in Step 38 we saw that there were 25 techniques of situational crime prevention that were divided up into these five categories:
  1. Increasing the effort of crime
  2. Increasing the risks
  3. Reducing the rewards
  4. Reducing provocations
  5. Removing excuses
We looked at the first two in Steps 39 & 40. Now we’re going to cover the third when we look at Step 41 - Reduce the rewards of crime. In the past I have mentioned the idea of looking at the motivation to commit crimes through the lens of a cost / benefit ratio. Where increasing the effort and risks of crime speak to the cost, reducing the rewards of a crime speak to reducing the rewards of a crime.

These reduced rewards aren’t strictly monetary based. In fact the authors explain the rewards of crime this way:
These benefits may not simply be material, as in theft, because there are many other rewards of crime, including sexual release, intoxication, excitement, revenge, respect from peers, and so forth. 
If you are going to reduce the rewards of crime, you should think about the potential rewards that motivate a criminal in a particular type of crime. This will give you an idea of ways you can reduce the benefit thereby changing the cost / benefit ratio for your offender.

The authors list five ways to reduce the rewards of crime for the criminal. They are:
  1. Conceal targets
  2. Remove targets
  3. Identify property
  4. Disrupt markets
  5. Deny benefits
They list a number of suggestions for each of these ways. I encourage you hit the link to read the article for them. As an aside, I found this bit interesting in the category for Disrupt markets. The author states:
Police "sting" operations - such as bogus used goods stores - should be avoided because research has found that they may stimulate theft in the area around the sting.
How many times has the response to a crime problem in your jurisdiction been to “set up a sting operation”? I think it’s important to be extremely cautious about sting operations for this reason. If your sting operation is crafted in such a way as to reduce the cost to the offender(s) then you are weighting the cost / benefit ratio in their favor. You may actually induce someone to commit a crime they ordinarily would not have if the cost / benefit was not artificially swung the wrong direction.

Next time, we’ll cover Step 42- Reduce provocations.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No Bank Account The Least Of His Worries

No Bank Account The Least Of His Worries
Accused Fort Hood gunman Nidal Hasan seems to be having some problems finding a place to deposit his paycheck. A story over at says that his current bank is closing his account and Hasan's defense team is having trouble finding a bank that will take his money. 

Hasan's attorney, John Galligan of Belton was quoted as saying:
"I'm at a loss as to what justification they have for refusing to allow him to have an account,” he said.
Hasan is the Army psychologist accused of gunning down 13 people at a Fort Hood facility for people preparing to deploy to the war zones.

Given the heinous crime Hasan is accused of, any tears shed due to his banking troubles are likely to be crocodile tears.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

If You Build It (Wrong) They Will Come (And Misuse It)

Chief Tom Casady over at his blog The Chief’s Corner has a post about some complaints at a local hike and bike trail in his sleepy little burg. It seems that a part of the trail is being frequented by some folks (possibly homeless) who have taken to drinking and urinating on the trail and generally, ruining the ambience for all the legitimate users of the facility.

Of course the citizen who complained about this issue had a typical comment on this type of scenario “I have yet to see a police officer in that area”. I think the Chief had a great reply:

I walked it this afternoon, and everything looked pretty good. The area under the bridges is shaded, clean, has a ledge at the top, is out of the rain and dew, has attractive lighting, is out-of-view from the roadways above, and is a stone’s throw from a liquor store and the People’s City Mission distribution center.

While the author of the column hasn’t seen any police officers during his strolls, we are indeed spending a little time in the Valley. The best we can do as a police department is try to keep the illegal behavior—nudity, public urination and defecation, drinking alcohol in public, unlawful panhandling, and so forth—somewhat in check through judicious application of a little patrol, surveillance and enforcement.

Build it, and they will come. If I had designed it, here’s something you would not see at all beneath those bridges:  a flat spot.

That last sentence, is the point I want to hammer away at. Sometimes, environmental design can either encourage or discourage problem behavior such as what the citizen was complaining about.

In this case, some of the design features of this hike and bike trail seem to encourage this problem behavior. In fact, I bet that if this had been designed in a manner as suggested by the Chief it would not have detracted from what legitimate users would want in a hike and bike trail and yet would discourage the kind of problem behavior described.

As problem solving crime analysts, are you participating in the design process of these public projects to encourage proper environmental design? Have you spent time getting to know your city’s engineering staff? If you build a good working relationship with them, they may welcome your input on these projects. You can save a lot of department resources by avoiding problematic designs before they are built.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trading Camo For A Badge

Things were a bit thin on law enforcement and crime analyst news today. However, this bit over at the International Association of Chief’s of Police website caught my attention. The IACP has issued a couple of guides relating to military veterans either beginning or returning to a law enforcement career.

The Leader’s Guide is designed to provide tools and strategies to define or refine a transition/reintegration strategy that optimizes a successful transition and enhanced support for veteran officers. The Veteran’s Guide contains tips, checklists, and resources to assist law enforcement officers returning from combat deployments, while offering some useful suggestions for those veterans seeking a productive and sustainable career in law enforcement.

The agency I work for is near Fort Hood, Texas one of the largest military bases in the free world. Not only are many officers in our area police departments military veterans, we also have quite a number who still serve in the military reserves and National Guard. At almost any time, we will have a couple of officers deployed overseas.

I’m glad to see the IACP looking at the challenges these officers face.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Step 40 - Increase The Risks of Crime

I've been blogging through chapters of the excellent book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers for some time here on The Crime Analyst's Blog. In this post we are up to Step 40 - Increase The Risks of Crime.

The authors have a great bit in the very first sentence of this chapter. They say:
According to interviews with offenders, they worry more about the risks of being apprehended than about the consequences if they are caught.
They go onto explain that this may be because offenders can't avoid punishment if caught, but they can avoid getting caught in the first place. Of course, the cynic in me also thinks that the old cop mantra of "you can beat the rap, but you can't beat the ride" may be the real reason with the initial arrest being much more punishment than would ever be meted out through the courts.

However, while the crook tries hard to avoid getting caught, anything we can do to increase the chances that they will get caught increases the risk to the offender. In increasing the risks of crime, we may be able to discourage the commission of many crimes.

The authors suggest five ways to increase the risks of crime.
  • Extend guardianship
  • Assist natural surveillance
  • Reduce anonymity
  • Use place managers
  • Strengthen formal surveillance
The authors include quite a number of suggestions for each of these categories. You can read the entire chapter with these suggestions here.

Next time, we'll look at Step 41 - Reduce The Rewards of Crime.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Online Reporting Can Improve Police Efficiency

Online Reporting Can Improve Police Efficiency
The Seattle Times has a piece on Seattle PD’s new online reporting system. This system will allow citizens to file police reports for minor incidents online rather than tie up an officer to take these reports.

Jamieson said that people are encouraged to use the online system to report a low-level property crime if the suspect is gone, or when there is little to no information on a suspect.

The benefit of the online-reporting system is that it "empowers people to fill out their own police report," Jamieson said. He said the online system will lessen call volume for police-call operators.

He said citizens won't have to wait for a police officer to show up to the crime scene, which sometimes can take hours depending on how many other crimes require police presence.

There are quite a number of mundane police reports that could be reported online. Often times, citizens need a police report to file an insurance claim for a stolen item. They realize that with little to go on, the police may not be able to solve their crime but have to report it to file the claim. Online reporting technologies can free up officers to respond to more pressing issues.

With the current economic situation, many departments are looking for ways to do more with less. What ways has your department tried to become more efficient? Is technology one of them?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

These Stats Aren’t Good

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and Concerns Of Police Survivors have issued a recent report where they indicate that line of duty deaths for law enforcement officers are up significantly in the first half of 2010. From the report:

“It is certainly disheartening that last year’s encouraging news on officer fatalities has not continued into 2010,” said NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd. “These latest figures provide a grim reminder that, even with all of the safety improvements that have been achieved in recent decades, our law enforcement officers still face grave, life-threatening dangers each and every day.”

Line of duty deaths had been at one of it’s lowest points since the late 1950’s up until the end of 2009. This year it seems that all hell has broken loose. Officer deaths are up 43% in the first half of 2010.

What is your department doing to make things as safe as possible for your officers? As a crime analyst are you making sure that critical officer safety information gets disseminated? Are you helping your department focus on the “bad actors”?

You can read the full NLEOMF report here.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

“Bodies accumulated.”

The New York Times has a piece exploring Los Angeles’ Grim Sleeper serial killer. This killer got his name based on the 13 year lull in the killings. He was alleged to have killed 11 people during his killing spree.

The article focuses on the trouble the police had in solving, or even connecting the killings due to the numbers of murders they were tasked with investigating.

“Bodies accumulated,” said Detective Clifford Shepard, who has worked for the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 25 years. “You just didn’t have any information back then. It was an insane time.”

Another part of the problem was that many of the victims didn’t lead squeaky clean lives. Some had drug problems, some were prostitutes. It was even harder since much of the minority community had a significant distrust of the police. All of these factors significantly muddied the waters for those detectives trying to solve these murders.

As crime analysts, it’s our job to help tie those disparate pieces of information together. Unless your department is really fortunate, many detectives’ caseloads don’t always allow them to see the big picture. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IACA / POP Conference Agenda

IACA / POP Conference Agenda
The International Association of Crime Analysts and the Problem Oriented Policing Center have released the agenda for their annual conference that takes place in Arlington, TX on September 27-30, 2010.

The 2010 POP/IACA conference will feature more than 50 training sessions focusing on both problem-oriented policing strategies and crime analysis techniques, from fundamentals and foundations to advanced tools and tactics. We will have dozens of exhibitors, several networking functions and forums, awards, prizes, and all of the other features you have come to expect from these two organizations.

You can find the tentative schedule of classes here. I am planning on attending. The hard part is going to be trying to fit all the ones I am interested into my schedule.

If you’re planning on going, drop me an email or send me a DM on Twitter. Maybe we can even put together a meetup at the reception on that Monday. I am sure we can find a place to hoist a few adult beverages.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Step 39 – Increase The Effort of Crime

In my last post on Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers, we touched on the twenty five techniques of situational crime prevention. These twenty five techniques are broken down into five main categories. In this post, we’re going to cover the first category found in Step 39 – Increase The Effort of Crime.

To a certain degree, crime can be viewed using a principle of economics, the cost / benefit ratio. As it’s applied to crime, cost / benefit is not always about money. In fact, quite a number of crimes don’t really have a true economic motive. However, if we replace money in cost / benefit with some other advantage it seems to work out quite nicely.

For example, a graffiti tagger does not usually derive an monetary benefit from his crime. However, he does obtain a tangible benefit by committing this vandalism, the improved street cred amongst his tagger peers by seeing his tags spread far and wide.

If we can increase the cost to the criminal and/or reduce the gained benefit, we may be able to reduce crime. This chapter speaks to ways to increase the cost to the criminal by making it harder for them to commit the crime.

The five main ways to increase the effort of crime are:

  1. Harden targets
  2. Control access to facilities
  3. Screen exits
  4. Deflect offenders
  5. Control tools and weapons

The authors of Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers have a number of examples for each of these five areas. Hit the link to the original article to explore them further.

Next time, we’ll cover Step 40 – Increase The Risks of Crime.

Friday, July 16, 2010

DFW Area Cops Turn To License Plate Scanners

DFW Area Cops Turn To License Plate Scanners
The Texas Observer has a detailed story on DFW area cops using automated license plate scanners to solve crimes.  From the story:

License plate readers are a deceptively simple technology: They basically consist of cameras – either in a fixed location or mounted on the top of a car – that are capable of capturing and processing thousands of license plates each hour even at high speeds, low light and bad weather. The plates are then automatically checked against databases of stolen vehicles, warrants, kidnapped children, and more.

Whereas before a patrol officer might have been able to check a dozen or so license plates in a shift, the computer can check hundreds a minute. All the cop needs to do is wait for the system to alert him to a match.

“The scanners are fantastic,” said Highland Village Police Chief Ed O’Bara. “It’s amazing how they can process information from the license plates.”

As these devices are used more and more, I hope that the Texas Legislature will get around to codifying what’s acceptable use regarding these gadgets. Hopefully common sense will prevail and they’ll strike the right balance between privacy and law enforcement zeal.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Where’s Angelica Gandara?


Where’s Angelica Gandara?
Twenty five years ago, an 11 year old Temple girl, Angelica Gandara disappeared. has a story on this girl who disappeared while walking home from her grandmother’s house in Temple.

If she’s still alive, she would be 36, but her fate remains clouded in mystery.

She was dressed in a white short-sleeve pullover shirt, black shorts, white socks and white tennis shoes as she set out for home after visiting her grandmother.

According to some reports, someone saw her with a man and a woman in a blue and white pickup truck that had a red and white hood.

I was in college here in central Texas and remember her disappearance. It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long.

The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Missing Persons Clearinghouse has more info including photos of Angelica. You can query their database here.

Someone out there knows something about this case. Do you?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grim Sleeper May Sleep For Good

Grim Sleeper May Sleep For Good
A relatively new DNA technique was used to crack LA’s notorious Grim Sleeper serial killer case. Wired Magazine has an article exploring some of the objections to this unusual forensic technique.

Police had forensic evidence from the crime scenes, but no match to suspects in the FBI’s DNA database, which contains samples from people arrested or convicted of a felony crime. Then last year, Franklin’s son Christopher was incarcerated on a felony weapons conviction. When police ran a so-called “familial search” of the database to find a match with the Grim Sleeper’s DNA, they got a match on Christopher.

Franklin Jr. was arrested July 7 on suspicion that he was the “Grim Sleeper” serial killer, allegedly responsible for killing nearly a dozen women in Los Angeles over a period of 25 years. The gruesome name stems from the fact that the killer took a break from murder for a dozen years at one point before resuming his killing spree.

As with any new forensic technique, the law has to catch up with the technique to find that fine line between the benefits of using a new technology and the rights to privacy of the individual.

Obviously use of this technique had a good outcome in this particular case. But the ends don’t always justify the means. It will be up to the courts to work out that balance. I’m optimistic about the use of this technology in solving crimes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pill Mills Are Really Drug Trafficking Operations

Pill Mills Are Really Drug Trafficking Operations
The Crime Report has a good story on the beginning of a crackdown on Florida’s notorious “pill mills” where drug abusers get quasi-legitimate prescriptions for highly addictive and frequently abused painkillers.

It’s a booming tourism industry, but one that officials in Florida, the largest state without a functioning prescription drug monitoring program, are scrambling to eliminate. They say many of the state’s 1,000-plus pain management clinics are nothing more than pill mills that operate outside the scope of legitimate pain medicine practices, which are often associated with hospitals and universities, and put addictive painkillers in the hands of drug traffickers, dealers and abusers.

When most people think of drug dealers and addicts, they normally think of illicit street drugs such as crack cocaine and marihuana. But there are huge numbers of people abusing or addicted to prescription drugs.

Over my nearly 20 years in law enforcement I’ve noticed that we are arresting more and more people for drug possession relating to legitimate prescription drugs that have been diverted to the street.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Step 38 - Embrace Your Key Role At Response

In this post in our walk through Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers we’re going to look at Step 38 – Embrace Your Key Role At Response.

Often when a crime problem appears, the first solution offered is to beef up enforcement efforts. In fact, I bet you could get on the Internet and within a couple of minutes find a crime story where a Chief of Police somewhere in the U.S. is promising to flood the streets with officers to battle a crime problem and win back a neighborhood.

Unfortunately, beefed up enforcement efforts are a very short term fix for nearly any problem and they don’t always work. Extra patrols, sting operations and other efforts will only last as long as there is money in the budget for this kind of response and in today’s economy, that’s probably not very long at all. Instead, as a problem solving crime analyst you should always seek more permanent solutions. The authors put it this way:

The bottom line is that you must acquire knowledge of a broad range of solutions, and be prepared to fight for good ideas, if your careful analytic work is to bear fruit.

The next five chapters are going to cover 25 techniques of situational crime prevention which are grouped in five main categories:

  1. Increasing the effort of crime
  2. Increasing the risks
  3. Reducing the rewards
  4. Reducing provocations
  5. Removing excuses

Next time, we’ll cover Step 39 – Increase The Effort of Crime.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No More Million Dollar Murrays


No More Million Dollar Murrays
There were a couple of posts on the web today concerning police response to dealing with the mentally ill. In the first one, the International Association of Chief’s of Police released a report Improving Police Response to Persons with Mental Illness. The introduction to the report states:

This report outlines the scope of the problem, identifies factors that have contributed to current challenges and describes innovative policies, programs and practices that have emerged in recent years to provide a foundation of this blueprint for change. These promising approaches offer safer, more compassionate and often cost-effective ways for police and their community partners to respond to adults and juveniles with mental illness. Ultimately, the effectiveness of these new approaches depends on the strength of the collaborative working relationships on which they are founded and on the willingness of states and localities to invest in providing a continuum of education and training for first responders and effective services and supports for persons with mental illness and their families.

The report and it’s recommendations are worth the read. Maybe the IACP can get the ball rolling on improving services for the mentally ill.

The second bit is a long post over at the blog Grits For Breakfast where Scott Henson discusses how “frequent flyers” in the criminal justice system disproportionately tax the resources of the system. Scott writes:

Think about that: The thirty most prolific mentally ill "consumers" of law enforcement services in Houston were responsible for 194 police offense reports in six months, so reducing that to 65 all of a sudden looks like a positive development. Said the report, "Many of these clients would benefit from a structured residential setting, staffed with mental health professionals 24 hours/365 days a year. These facilities are not currently available within Harris County."

Because the police and fire departments are often the service providers of last resort, they will end up dealing with folks with no place else to go in what is best described as a broken system.

If you want to make police more effective at solving crimes, reduce the amount of time they spend dealing with issues that are really health care problems and not criminal problems so they can spend more time doing what they really should be doing, catching criminals.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I’m Not The Only One Who’s Been Busy

I’m Not The Only One Who’s Been Busy
I am not sure what caused all the mayhem in the quiet little ‘burg where I work this week but it was busy. In fact, I am at a complete loss for something original to post today.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones busy lately. It seems that the Pacific Northwest’s “Barefoot Bandit” has made his way to the Bahamas according to this story over at USAToday:

According to the Associated Press, the FBI is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of Colton Harris-Moore -- suspected of being the Pacific Northwest's "Barefoot Bandit." Authorities suspect Harris-Moore in the theft of a plane that crash-landed off Abaco island on Sunday after it was stolen from an Indiana airport.

The 19-year-old, suspected in a long string of crimes, has eluded police for more than two years. His home is in Washington, but he has migrated across the USA and into the Midwest, where police suspect he stole the Cessna and fled the country.

"He's not in custody as yet. We're following some leads. ... Hopefully we should find him," said Assistant Police Commissioner Glenn Miller.

Let’s hope the Bahamians have better luck than the cops in Washington state did.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Protect & Serve Doesn’t Always Mean “Press Release”

Protect & Serve Doesn’t Always Mean “Press Release”
The Crime Report has a link to an editorial over at the Columbus Dispatch where the editor writes a scathing editorial regarding the state of his local area police agencies’ media relations. After reading it, I figured it was a good time to speak to the how the relationship between the media and police often works.

Just for clarification I can’t speak to the specific complaints that Mr. Marrison has. However, twenty years of watching the often tense relationship between police and the media I can probably offer a few insights. In addition to a laundry list of complaints, Mr. Marrison writes:

While we acknowledge that solving crimes is more important than talking about them, those two things sometimes go hand in hand: Getting information out to the public helps police crack cases by prompting tips. Columbus Police Sgt. Rich Weiner acknowledged that, saying, "The media and the public are great partners."

We don't expect to be spoon-fed the news. We work hard every day to gather it and make good-faith efforts to ask police what is going on and follow up on tips and scanner broadcasts.

But we can't do our job of keeping you informed unless police do theirs, and providing information is part of it.

While Mr. Marrison posits that providing the media information for them to write stories and sell papers for profit is part of law enforcement’s duty to “protect and serve” I can tell you that the press release is pretty far down the list of things to do where solving a crime is concerned. Working a crime such as a homicide is a huge, mind numbing amount of work. I have put in a number of 24 to 36 hour workdays on a homicide over the years. If I have been running hard for 36 hours straight, don’t expect me to care as much about the press release as I do making sure I got the right bad guy in jail, my search warrant will withstand years of legal scrutiny and I haven’t missed a crucial lead or piece of evidence.

Additionally, because the release of the wrong information could jeopardize the successful completion to a case, most departments have strict policies about who can actually talk to the media. The officers on duty may not have the authority to provide the information and the poor guy with the authority is probably at home in bed since most newsworthy crimes happen in the middle of the night anyway. Also, many media inquiries seem to come in the evening right before air time or press time. Don’t expect the department’s media person to operate on your schedule. If he or she is not there, the person answering the phone may not have the authority to give you the big scoop.

Occasionally, the news media gets it into their head that the best way to sell papers/gain viewers is to do “hard hitting” journalism which usually means, doing a hit piece on the local cops or city government. They’ll write a story bemoaning how unfair/inept/biased the local cops are. Then, after dragging their names through the mud for the purpose of selling newspapers, will call up and ask for information. If you do attack journalism, don’t expect the target of your attack to want to do you any favors.

Many times, the victim’s of crimes don’t want the fact that they have been victimized broadcast for all the world to see. They are embarrassed, scared and already traumatized. We also exist to protect and serve victims. If one of your reporters gets assaulted during a family fight or arrested  for DWI with a naked circus midget in the car, will you splash that all over the front page? I know of a newspaper owner who drove his car drunk through the front of a department store one night long ago. That never made the paper for some reason.

If you are a journalist and want to learn the ropes of working the crime beat, here are a few tips:

  1. Do you know what the media policies of the local police agencies are? Who can release information? Who is the designated press officer? When do they normally work? How do you get a hold of them after hours?
  2. Attend a Citizens Police Academy if your agency has one. You’ll learn a ton about how law enforcement agencies work as well as meet many of the cops.
  3. Develop a relationship of trust with your local police media guy. If you burn him or make them look foolish, don’t be surprised if they aren’t willing to get burned again.
  4. If we give you a press release, use the information we give you accurately. You’d be surprised how many times we issue a press release only to see the resulting story get the information wrong. C’mon, we gave it to you…in writing no less.
  5. As Mr. Marrison alluded to, don’t expect to be spoon-fed the story. Occasionally, you may have to actually leave the newsroom to get your story.
  6. Write the occasional positive human interest story about someone or something at the local law enforcement agency. Yeah, it may be a fluff piece but it will help to break down barriers between you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Step 37 - Know That To Err Is Human.

In this post in my journey through Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers, we're covering Step 37 - Know That To Err Is Human.

I must admit that this was one of the harder chapters to write about, mainly because it is a technical discussion of how to measure prediction errors. In fact I don't think I have a whole to add by commenting on this chapter other than this one bit:
In some circumstances it is possible to use a pilot test to accurately estimate the errors by making the predictions, not acting on them, and carefully observing what happens. This might be difficult to do with offenders, who prefer to keep their misdeeds hidden, but it could work with potential victims or crime places. For example, a response to a problem might involve predicting which places are most likely to be crime sites and then intervening at those locations. Prior to implementing this response, a pilot study could be conducted in which the predictions are made, but no action is taken. If the error rates are unacceptably high, then it might not be worth implementing the response.
It might be worth honing your analytical chops by making predictions about future criminal activity without any intervention. Hopefully you can work out any bugs in your analysis prior to committing resources to the problem.

Next time, I'll cover Step 38 - Embrace Your Key Role At Response

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Can’t We All Just Get Along?


Can’t We All Just Get Along?
A panel looking into the highly charged arrest of a black Harvard professor by a white police sergeant finds enough blame to go around for an incident that famously ended up with a White House “beer summit” to discuss the incident.

CNN quotes the panel in their story:

"Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates each missed opportunities to 'ratchet down' the situation and end it peacefully," the report said. "The Committee believes that the incident was sparked by misunderstanding and failed communications between the two men."

"Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates missed opportunities to lower the temperature of their encounter and communicate clearly with each other, and the results were unfortunate for everyone concerned. They share responsibility for the outcome," the report concluded.”

Mistakes being made by both sides in racially charged incidents likely happens all too often. A Boston Globe story on this report had this to say:

The commissioner said the department also investigated disorderly conduct arrests over recent years as part of its own internal investigation. While race did not play a factor in the arrests, the department realized that tracking such arrests could prove to be a measure of an officer’s interaction with the public. Haas said the tool should be used by departments across the country.

This is a very interesting idea. We all know that certain types of arrests have a reputation of being the kinds of arrests that occur when the real offense is more likely “P.O.P.O” (pissing off police officer). That doesn’t make them right but if you’ve got a huge chip on your shoulder, don’t be surprised if someone tries to knock that chip right off.

Tracking these types of arrests should give an agency a tool to determine if more training or community outreach is required. Even if your officer is technically right in making such an arrest, the damage to your community outreach can be enormous.

I tried to find a full copy of the Cambridge Review Committee report and haven’t found one on the net just yet. If you have a link to the full report, please post a link in the comments.