The Premature Demonization of Scot Peterson Revisited

The Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, aka the Parkland shooting, took place on February 14, 2018. At the time, I wrote four blog posts posing unanswered questions about the shooting, questions that (it seemed to me) weren’t being asked or answered by press reporting at the time. Here are the first, third, and fourth. I could well have written another four, but lost track of the issue for lack of time and initiative.

The second of those posts was on what I called the “premature demonization of Scot Peterson.” Peterson, you’ll recall, was the police officer assigned to the high school as security (the “SRO,” or School Resource Officer), and accused of “cowardice” for his “failure” to enter the building where the shooting was taking place. In my original post on the subject, I raised questions about the appropriateness of both of these judgments. It wasn’t obvious, at least from the facts reported at the time, that Peterson had “failed” at anything, nor was it clear that he was guilty of “cowardice.” Continue reading

Teach Your Children

I have what I regard as a good working relationship with the Rutherford Police Department, and count its chief, John Russo, as a friend. I’ve hosted members of the Department twice at my university, and have been a guest of Chief Russo’s at the Department itself. I have no objection to police visits to schools per se, but I think some balance is in order: if cops are going to visit schools, civil libertarians from the ACLU or similar organizations should be visiting the same students in the same schools. A school unwilling to host civil libertarians should not be hosting cops. Far too many do.

https://twitter.com/RutherfordPDNJ/status/1103848659538579457

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“Naila and the Uprising”

For scheduling reasons, as usual, I missed my chance a few weeks ago to see Julia Bacha’s documentary film, “Naila and the Uprising” at the UN, where Bacha, the director, was in attendance to discuss the film at a pre-showing event. In case you were wondering, Julia Bacha is a filmmaker with Just Vision, an independent film company dedicated to “rendering Palestinian and Israeli grassroots leaders more visible, valued and influential in their efforts.” And “Naila” is the story of a young Gazan woman’s participation in the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, of 1987-1993. Unless you’re a connoisseur of things Palestinian, you’d probably never have heard of director, film, or company. And if ordinary experience is any guide, American connoisseurs of things Palestinian are in pretty short supply. Continue reading

R. Kelly and Mob Justice

I was on spring break last week, so I made the mistake of sitting down and watching some TV for the first time since Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s just my ineptitude with a remote, but aside from Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism, the only topic that seemed up for discussion was R. Kelly and the charges made against him. (I also made the mistake of watching Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” quixotically expecting a Spike Lee movie to rise above the level of a comic book, but alas, wrong again. More on that fiasco some other time.)

Here’s an obvious point about guilt and innocence when it comes to criminal charges: if you’re going to try someone for a criminal allegation in the court of public opinion–a very big and very dubious if–you have to distinguish clearly between four mutually exclusive things:

  • the case against him,
  • the case in his defense,
  • the set of known facts that don’t easily fit either of the first two categories, and
  • the unknowns.

The least you can do is to try to do justice to the facts in all four categories, rather than fixating on, say, the case against him to the exclusion of everything else. There are complications here about how broadly or narrowly to understand each category, but even if we set those aside, there’s more than enough complexity here to keep a competent journalist busy for awhile. Continue reading

How to Face Down the Secret Service

More or less like this:

https://nypost.com/video/woman-who-posted-about-trump-slams-door-on-secret-service-agent/

And not just the Secret Service, but any law enforcement agency that treats you as these officers treat her.

On the whole, I’d say she gets things just right. Some minor criticisms:

I would not have bothered to ask the agent about any charges the Secret Service might be contemplating; unless they’re formally making a charge, they won’t truthfully tell you what charges they have in mind. In any case, they have the legal authority to lie and bluff about whatever charges they’re contemplating, so there’s no reason to believe anything they tell you before they arrest you. If they have a formal charge to make, they’ll make it if and when they arrest you (or even more precisely, if and when you’re arraigned); otherwise, asking about prospective charges is a waste of time, and a good way of getting needlessly drawn into an unintentionally incriminating conversation with them, which is what they’re here for, and the last thing you want to do. Continue reading

Against HIPPster Regulation

Consider this post a rant-by-proxy: I owe the basic idea for it to my therapist wife, Alison, but the issue occurred to me independently (though not with such clarity) a few years ago, after I took a professional ethics course for my counseling degree.

Psychotherapy is an odd vocation that’s hard to categorize in a straightforward way. A therapist is in some respects like a teacher, in some respects like a friend, in some like a parent, in some like a religious minister, and in some like a physician. But at the end of the day, therapy is a sui generis activity with its own internal standards and internal goods. Therapy may resemble pedagogy, friendship, parenting, spiritual counseling, and medicine in some respects, but isn’t any of those things. Nonetheless, the powers-that-be have decided nowadays that psychotherapy is a form of medicine, or if that strains credulity, that it ought to be medicalized as much as possible.    Continue reading

Hey, PoPo–Leave Those Kids Alone

Is the behavior described in this story immoral? Yes. Stupid? Yes. Punishment-worthy? Maybe. But the appropriate subject of a police investigation? No.

We’re all justifiably outraged when someone calls the cops on black people engaged in some innocuous activity–be it barbecuing, babysitting, or whatever. But calling the cops to “assist” in a school investigation into fascist speech is no better than that, and fundamentally, no different. It’s a misuse of the powers of the police, and yet another illegitimate broadening of the scope of their activities. Continue reading

Felician Events: Policing, Deportation, and Immigrant Rights

Three event announcements for people in the New York/New Jersey metro area (this announcement amends and supersedes an earlier one I put up):

Policing from a Cop’s Point of View
Thursday, November 8, 2018, 1-2:15 pm
“Ray’s Place,” Main Auditorium, Education Commons Building
Felician University’s Rutherford campus
227 Montross Ave.
Rutherford, New Jersey 07070

We live in a climate of opinion that is highly critical of the police: charges of racism, brutality, procedural irregularity and the like abound. But what is the experience of working police officers? How do they experience what they deal with on the job, and what do they think about the criticisms commonly made of them?

We’ll hear answers to these and other questions from four local police officers: Louis Mignone, a former detective for the West Orange Police Department (now an adjunct in Felician’s Department of Criminal Justice); Julie Ann Zeigler, a sergeant for the Rutherford Police Department; John Russo, Chief of Police for the Rutherford Police Department; and John Link, former Chief of Police of the Clifton Police Department (and an adjunct in Felician’s Department of Criminal Justice). The event is free and open to the public.

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Imagine: Living in a Socialist America (Run by Republican Aristocrats)

I met these Democratic candidates for Readington Town Committee over breakfast the other day, and asked them what differentiates them from the Republicans who dominate politics around town. Without blinking an eye, they said that as Democrats, they favor a pro-development, pro-business platform against the local Republican machine, which is running against development and against business in the name of “Open Space.”

Image result for elizabeth fiore denise esakof

According Esakoff and Fiore, thirty percent of Readington Township is already open space, large swatches of it off limits to most people, but the Republicans want more: because you can never have too much of a resource that lots of people are excluded from using.  Huge swatches of “preserved farmland” lie in Readington Township alone, acquired at 50-100% “State Cost” i.e., through purchases by the county or the municipality, or through purchase by State Agricultural Development Committee fees. Continue reading