Marty Walsh claimed in 2014 he wanted to get gun violence in Boston down to zero, but the city is now facing a third consecutive double-digit increase in annual homicides — what’s going on?Read More
Maps geolocating contribution data reported to the New York State Board of Elections appear to predict multiple New York State incumbents will lose in the upcoming Thursday primary elections.Read More
A map of OCPF data shows that Suffolk County District Attorney candidate Michael Maloney, despite widespread media portrayals of him as a viable candidate and five months of campaigning, has not received a single contribution from a person who is able to cast a vote for him in November.Read More
A review of OCPF data shows residents of Suffolk County’s most prosecuted neighborhoods have an important message for the Massachusetts political establishment…but is anyone listening to them?Read More
A map of Greg Henning’s contributions in the OCPF database reveals he has not received a single contribution from a neighborhood where MassINC reports the highest rates of prosecution and incarceration.Read More
Two years ago, I was invited to testify before a senate committee at the State House on “Fine Time,” the practice of Massachusetts Trial Court judges sending people to jail for owing outstanding monies to courts. It was an illegal practice intersecting two glaring racial disparities that supposedly progressive states like Massachusetts had long ago remedied: African Americans are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than whites and median household net worth is $8 (not a typo) when compared to whites' $247,500.
Yet on two issues where black residents were impacted more than any other racial group, there I sat, a white male from North Andover who’d driven 200 miles from New York, waiting to testify before a Senate Post Oversight and Audit Committee comprised of seven white men. While they asked questions, fiddled on their iPhones, received messages from aides and took bathroom breaks, a merry-go-round of all-white agency heads, deputy commissioners, judges, and defense attorneys took the podium to testify as experts.
I remember cringing with each passing witness, wondering to myself as the day dragged on: Is there really not a single person of color here to represent any of the state's public safety agencies?
The answer then, as today, is illustrated by the following list: Head of the Department of Corrections: white; Head of the Executive Office of Public Safety: white; Head of Probation: white; Head of the Parole Board: white; Head of the Supreme Judicial Court: white; Head of the Appeals Court: white; Head of the Superior Court: white; Head of the Trial Court: white; All 11 district attorneys: white; Head of the Committee for Public Counsel Services: white; Head of the State Police: white; All seven members of the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee: white.
The problem is not that all of these people are white, it should be noted, since this is how we white people tend to interpret calls for racial representation. The problem is that because we are white we aren't arrested and sent to jail eight times more often, we don't live in neighborhoods ravaged by 67% recidivism rates, we aren't going to lose our loved ones when teen gun homicides double, nor are we going to be harassed when constant calls for more police on the streets result in our daily mistreatment.
Because we lack direct experience with these crises of life and liberty, we lack the proper sense of urgency to remedy them when we are put in positions of leadership. This is why we can be found calling for the third new prosecutorial unit in as many decades to battle gun violence, even though the first two, the gang unit and the gun unit, did very little to stop gun violence. It's how we are standing by as innovative reentry programs are decimated for lack of funding while corrections officers take home 29% pay raises. It's how the most progressive among us, who have spent our entire careers in communities of color, stand up in rooms full of people and tell 18-24-year-old black men in the audience, in so many words, that they can't be given apartments to rent or cars to drive because their brains don't work properly (clip starts at -34:33).
In a recent column highlighting widespread racial hostility towards black judges in courthouses throughout the Commonwealth, Adrian Walker recalled an incident where the chief justice overseeing the Trial Court, Paula Carey, dismissed the results of a survey in 2013 that revealed the extent of the problem. Because she had never witnessed or experienced the racial animus detailed within, she called for another — which five years later reported the same thing.
During a recent debate at Umass Boston, Ayanna Pressley, who is a candidate for Congress in the only Massachusetts district where people of color constitute a majority (MA-7), explained why calls for racial representation are about more than “identity politics” (the catch-phrase white people reflexively invoke against racial equity):
“[racial representation] informs the issues that are spotlighted and emphasized, and it leads to more innovative and enduring solutions.”
This crucial nexus, between representation, innovation, and timely redress, is something white people continue to ignore at the peril of communities of color. When white people are in charge we don't fully fund and implement the right solutions, nor effectively prevent gun violence and recidivism from devastating neighborhoods of color. We insist, over and over, that the solution is to keep dumping $300m a year into a police department that is failing to clear 96% of shootings, has the worst racial disparity in homicide clearance rates in the entire country, and is awarding hundreds of its officers $200-400k salaries anyway. All the while, 20 years of data show us how to stop gun violence overnight with a tiny fraction of those funds if we really want to — but we can't be trusted to do it.
During a May 3rd Suffolk County District Attorney candidates forum at Suffolk Law School, Meghan Irons reported still more statistics revealing why the nexus between representation and outcomes is so urgently important: in a county roughly 56% white, the Suffolk County D.A.’s office employs a staff of attorneys that is 87% white and that prosecutes people of color 73% of the time.
In Adrian Walker’s column, still more stats: in the court that handles the state's most serious felonies, the Superior Court Department — which sentences people of color 74% of the time on mandatory minimum drug charges — just two of 82 justices are black.
At some point, given this glaring lack of racial representation and the horrifically biased outcomes it engenders, you would think that white people, and especially white progressives, would begin to recognize that our lack of understanding and personal experience with issues that disproportionately harm people of color is putting their lives in danger. But alas, we keep trying to get in front.
In the upcoming primary elections on September 4th — which in blue Massachusetts are de facto general elections — a 66-year-old member of the state’s 100% white congressional delegation, Michael Capuano, is arguing Martin Luther King, Jr. himself would want him to represent the state's only majority district of color.
When asked if racial representation matters, he recently replied:
“I just don’t think there are that many people who will vote for me because I’m a white male or vote against me because I’m a white male.”
It is a comment that cuts straight to the core of the matter: a 66-year-old white man who has represented a district of color for 10 consecutive terms still doesn’t understand the issue is not that his skin is white. The issue is whether or not he has sufficient personal knowledge and experience on issues that disproportionately target the majority of the constituents he claims to be the most qualified person to represent. And sure enough, as soon as you scratch the surface, it becomes readily apparent that he does not.
Recently, on the urgent issue of police violence against people of color, he centered himself with a boneheaded critique of protestors attempting to call public attention to it, rather than, say, centering innovative policy solutions or bills he was proposing to introduce. Though he cited Martin Luther King in his defense, his clear lack of knowledge and personal experience with racism reveals that he is completely unaware that in the entirety of recorded human history — including Taylor Branch's 3,000-page tome on King's life — not a single protest method has ever been satisfactory to white people.
In the Suffolk County D.A. race, which also has a primary Sept. 4, a career prosecutor named Greg Henning leads a gang unit that has almost exclusively prosecuted young men of color since it was founded. In 2016, Massachusetts had the highest rate of reported hate crimes in the entire country, and yet not a single attorney I have spoken to in Suffolk County can remember Henning's unit ever indicting a single white person — let alone a member of a white supremacist gang. Yet despite the fact that the office staff is already comprised of 87% white attorneys, he sincerely believes the solution is to hire him, another white person, to fix it.
More incredibly, a lifelong progressive defense attorney, Shannon McAuliffe, who has made her career in communities of color and thus has seen firsthand the total lack of racial representation in action, insists, like Henning, that the solution to there being 90 too many white attorneys in the office already is for her to step in front of two highly qualified candidates of color and lead the way.
In answer to Capuano and his supporters trying to dismiss her calls for racial representation, Pressley recently responded:
“I believe those closest to the pain should be closest to the power driving and informing the policies of our government.”
For decades, centuries even, white people have been claiming to be the best, most qualified candidates to lead, but on issues that disproportionately harm people of color our lack of proximity to the pain caused by these issues has caused us to fail spectacularly. Whether we are 10-term incumbents, career prosecutors seeking more prosecution units, or defense attorneys seeking the opposite, if we are white, it is long past time for us to cease and desist from trying to lead over qualified candidates of color. The people closest to the pain can’t drive key changes in policy if those of us who are furthest away from it insist upon standing directly in their way.
A 24-year-old New York City woman won't be getting the chance to post a #PDXcarpet selfie on social media after a recent trip through Portland Int'l. Her feet never got a chance to touch the renowned rug inside the terminal. On February 24, Port of Portland police officers surrounded her outside a TSA checkpoint, accused her of being too drunk to care for herself, tackled her face-first into the ground, and did their All-American, high-school-football-hero best to make sure she didn't get to fly out to Tampa to visit her mother.
Tina Campos, a 24-year-old Latina graphic artist and craft cocktail bartender from Brooklyn, arrived several hours early for a 4:30 am departure. Only instead of passing through security and killing time in the shops and restaurants inside, an all-male cop squad insisted that a young woman of color showing up at 10:00 pm for an early morning departure could only mean one thing: she was obviously too intoxicated to know what day it was.
Forgoing field sobriety tests and a Breathalyzer, officers explained they had no choice but to take her in to protect her, to make sure nothing bad would happen to her, because keeping her safe was their number one priority -- right before piledriving her face into the ground, hogtying her ankles and wrists, and laying her across the floor of a holding cell while eight male officers crowded over her.
As a result of the incident, Campos missed her flight, her family trip, several days of work, and she received a black eye (visible in the booking photo below), bruises, a chipped tooth, injuries to her wrists and ankles, and harassing messages from strangers on her social media accounts and at her workplace.
Port of Portland Police claim they were justified, writing in their official government report that, "Ms. Campos was loudly cursing and arguing", "crying and yelling", "highly agitated while talking and was cursing and making wide hand motions", "yelling loudly at the officers", "continue to yell and curse loudly at officers", "crying and would switch between crying and yelling in anger within seconds", "waving her hands around," and "continued to ramp up."
Taking them at their word, it sounds like an open-and-shut case. Multiple sworn officers of the peace filed an official government document under the pains and penalties of perjury in a court of law, and in the report they averred eight different times that in the moments before they detained the woman she was ramping up, screaming, and wildly out of control.
The officers wouldn't exaggerate, embellish, and fabricate details against a young woman they'd never met before, right? Not when they knew a fully functioning airport surveillance video system was rolling tape the entire time. No one could be that brazen, or stupid, right?
In the footage above, which this writer reviewed several dozen times because he couldn't believe what his eyes were seeing, Campos appears visibly annoyed that she is being taken into custody. But that's it: she's annoyed. If you watch the video closely, keeping an eye out for the specific conduct enumerated in the report, you'll notice there are no visible or audible signs of screaming, no mouth opening wide and closing, no gnashing teeth, no spittle flying, tongue wagging, or eyes squinting with rage.
In the entire video, the worst Campos appears to do is turn her body away from officers for a moment in frustration. And that's literally it. There's no "veering back and forth between crying and yelling in anger," "loudly cursing and arguing," "waving her hands around," or anything else that comes close to the extreme behavior described in the police report. For example, the "waving her hands" and "wide hand motions" mentioned in the report? Well, that would be her at the 00:12s mark running her hand through her hair, and pushing her bangs to the side of her face at 00:14s. Yes, seriously.
Incredibly, the officer's mischaracterizations become more brazen than this as the report continues. One of the officers claims he saw Campos "throwing her boarding pass and ID at the officer."
In the footage above, the officer on Campos's right -- read: NOT Campos -- places her boarding pass on top of her bag. As he does, the video shows her watching him, spotting where her bag is, and then no-look tossing her ID on top of it. Not only does the video show that the officer was exaggerating, mistaken, or lying (because she clearly did not throw her boarding pass or ID at any officer, as the report states), but it also clearly shows her exhibiting a level of hand-eye coordination and presence of mind that would be impossible for someone too intoxicated to care for herself.
This last misstatement makes, at this writer's count, NINE mischaracterizations of fact, and, yet, they still aren't done.
The report states that the same officer, the one on Campos's right, "advised Campos she needed to relax and she was going to detox to sober up. Campos then used her right leg in a rearward kick into my leg and knee."
The video above shows that this characterization, of her kicking him because he tells her she's being taken into custody, rather than for some other reason, is straight-up perjury by omission. In the video, the officer can clearly be seen planting his boot and then using his height and weight advantage to drive Campos's wrist and arm the wrong way into the arch of her back, as if he's trying to dislocate her shoulder. And it's at this moment, in response to him using a clearly unnecessary level of force on her for no apparent reason, that she appears to kick back at him in pain, as a matter of reflex.
Not only does the officer's report omit this, but the report chronologically arranges the telling of events around the omission to portray Campos as kicking him for no reason, completely unprovoked. This last mischaracterization, which at this writer's count makes TEN, is the most probative of all concerning officer credibility.
Under Oregon law, when police use excessive force without justification, civilians are legally permitted to use a reasonable amount of force in self defense. Which would explain why the officer neglected to mention that he nearly twisted Campos's arm off: if his use of this level of force during what could and should have been a routine arrest was excessive, and the video clearly seems to indicate it was, then what Campos did was legal and she shouldn't have been charged.
Yet despite being in possession of the same video footage as this writer, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office has filed criminal charges against Campos. It remains to be seen whether the DA's office will conduct a thorough review of the video evidence and dismiss and expunge all charges.
It also remains to be seen whether the DA's office will file charges against the officers, or, at the very least, add their names to a do-not-call list given how much incontrovertible evidence demonstrates a clear penchant for exaggeration, mischaracterization, and omission of fact in sworn government charging documents.
[Following this incident, several news outlets covered this story and prominently posted Campos's mugshot, smearing her name. In the weeks following, a white man her age was accused of anonymously bombing and murdering people in Austin, TX. The media used a boyish picture of him smiling brightly]
In 1997 my uncle Brian died, prey to America’s inaction in the face of the AIDS crisis in the '80s. A heterosexual male with a wife and two kids, he was infected by an unscreened blood transfusion after the Reagan administration and the rest of Puritan-reflux, cis-het America saw fit to judge and crack jokes for the better part of a decade rather than getting a jump start on the treatment and prevention that could have saved his and many others' lives.
I mention Uncle Brian’s passing as we approach World AIDS Day, Dec 1st, because America's inaction in the face of that burgeoning crisis—inaction that led to his and many others' untimely deaths—bears a disturbing resemblance to a new inaction, one that has already led to at least 100,000 unnecessary deaths in American cities.
In the mid-90s, when America was just starting to admit that HIV/AIDS was a real crisis and scrambling to scale treatment and prevention nationally, a gun violence epidemic was taking root in the nation’s urban centers. Like AIDS, it affected mostly men, and, in particular, young black men in densely populated, hyper-segregated, economically poor neighborhoods. As with the outbreak of AIDS, the pearl-clutching public responded not with sympathy or a redoubled emphasis on public health, but rather by hyperventilating, judging, and fear-mongering, using terms such as "superpredator," "thug," and "gangbanger."
Though the proximate causes of the two epidemics bear little comparison, it is in the cruel, vicious pubic response—given that both were later found to be completely preventable epidemics—wherein the analogy, and hopefully solidarity, lie. From the time AIDS first appeared in a medical journal in 1981, to the time Ronald Reagan first uttered the word in public, approximately 21,000 people had died. In all, roughly a million people lost their lives before the public came around and treatment and funding finally scaled.
Similarly, with the epidemic of gun violence, criminologists at Harvard and the University of Chicago learned how to turn it off and prevent it completely—and I mean that literally—in 1996. That year a program later dubbed the "Boston Miracle" ended teen gun deaths in Boston for 29 straight months. A similar thing happened in Chicago, where a like program cut gun violence by as much as 73% in target areas, and cut retaliation shootings by as much as 100% in several trial sites. In Baltimore's McElderry park, traditionally one of the city's most violent hotspots, a similar program was responsible for a period of 22 months without a single gun homicide.
With AIDS, the non-LGBTQH public eventually came around, if reluctantly, and today with proper treatment it can be managed—it's no longer a death sentence for those infected. On gun violence, however, despite 20 years of data showing thousands of deaths could be prevented at a fraction of the cost of criminal justice interventions, the public hasn't budged. Jurisdictions with the worst gun violence epidemics in the country underfund, ridicule, and axe the programs proven to save lives, and so far the general public has scarcely noticed. In the table above, from a recent Washington Post article about gun violence, the author didn't even mention that these life-saving programs exist.
Boston, which I mention because it was the first city to pilot Operation Ceasefire (the program responsible for the Boston Miracle) abruptly discontinued the program in 2000. Per the chart at right, gang-related youth gun homicides — the kind the program was specifically designed to prevent — sextupled from 5 to 30 in the years directly following. By 2005, overall homicides spiked from a record low 31 to a 10-year high 75.
Today, despite data showing that the Boston Police Department is failing to solve 96% of shooting cases, the city spends upwards of $300 million on police salaries and $1 million on program salaries for the streetworker program modeled on Ceasefire. That's a roughly 300:1 ratio of what data shows doesn't work to what data shows does work. Meanwhile 16-year-olds and women sitting on porches continue to get killed, and the city, rather than taking decisive action steps to reverse its completely backwards allocation of public safety funding, has decided to conduct yet another study evaluating a question that it has known the answer to for three decades: yes, these programs work.
In Chicago, a city with one of the nation's most highly publicized gun violence crises, the situation is dire. Rather than scaling its highly effective Ceasefire program to all of the city's hotspots, city and state leaders cut funding in 2007, again in 2013, and again in 2015. Today, with homicides at the highest level seen in decades, city officials vehemently claim they have no answers and no money while allocating more than a billion dollars each year to a police department failing to clear more than 80% of murder cases and costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in misconduct judgments. As in Boston, the chart above right reveals the cost of Chicago's refusal to allocate its public safety resources in line with what the data says: cuts to the program resulted in 816 hundred additional shootings in just 18 months.
Baltimore, another city with a severe gun violence problem, has seen similarly inexplicable cuts and inaction. Charm City adopted a version of Ceasefire in 2000, which it called Safe Streets, and piloted it in four of the city’s 11 hotspots. Twelve years later, a team of statisticians at Johns Hopkins reported that the implementation sites saw “large, statistically significant, program-related reductions in homicides.”
Not only had the trial sites seen large reductions directly related to the program, but in May 2015, Baltimore’s most violent month in the city's most violent year on record at the time, the Safe Streets site in Cherry Hill reported there hadn’t been a gun homicide in over a year. Another site, Mondawmin, hadn’t had a shooting all month. Same in Park Heights, another site. Meanwhile, in the police-only hotspot areas where Safe Streets was still not operating three years after the Hopkins data, the city saw an 83% increase in shootings, more than three a day, with 29 people shot over the Memorial Day weekend alone.
As in Chicago, Baltimore's elected officials claimed then — and continue to claim — there's no money for Safe Streets, which the state recently cut by more than half. Meanwhile the city doles out more than $500 million annually to a police department failing to clear 75% of current year homicides and costing taxpayers millions in misconduct judgments — the cost of which judgments alone would be enough to scale Safe Streets to all of the city's hotspots for multiple years.
As World AIDS Day approaches, we should reflect upon what can happen when a nation recognizes it's wrong to stand by and do nothing while people die from an easily treatable epidemic. Baltimore sees around 300 gun homicides per year. Chicago around 800. If we add these gun deaths together since 1996, when effective gun violence prevention programs were discovered, we're talking about roughly 24,000 unnecessary deaths in these two cities alone — a similar number that died of AIDS before Reagan first spoke the word.
Nationally, America sees roughly 11,000 gun homicides annually, which means that to date the number of preventable gun homicides in all 50 states is anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 lives lost. It’s long past time we recognize that if it was wrong to stand by and do nothing during the AIDS epidemic — which everyone today universally agrees that it was — then it's also wrong to stand by and do nothing while young black men continue to lose their lives to a completely preventable gun violence epidemic in our nation's cities.