Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mandatory Arrest

Nearly two decades ago, the United States criminal justice systems were revolutionized after the amendment of mandatory and pro-arrest policies in state and municipal police agencies. These policies required officers to take a suspect into custody each time their assistance was required at a domestic dispute. Prior to the amendment of mandatory arrest policies, legal and social institutions took a “hands-off approach” to domestic violence. The battered women’s movement of the 1970s finally brought the issue of intimate violence into the public eye by “providing services for victims, creating and strengthening domestic violence legislation, and generally improving the criminal justice system’s responses to woman battering (Miller, Peterson 2007). During the 1980s, police departments began shifting to mandatory and pro-arrest policies to combat the constant scrutiny for their lack of action towards domestic dispute perpetrators (Miller, Peterson 2007). Lately, mandatory arrest policies have became scrutinized due to their inability to protect victims of domestic violence and even have unforeseen consequences against victims of color and low-income economic status (Miller, Peterson 2007). Due to the newly discovered negative consequences, mandatory arrest policies should not be practiced by state and municipal police departments in the United States.
During their development, mandatory and pro-arrest policies seemed to serve communities in several positive ways. First, these policies gave battered women more support and psychological strength because it showed that battering and abusing women would not be tolerated. Second, mandatory arrest policies clarified police roles “by providing more guidance and training.” Third, mandatory arrest policies made making an arrest clearer by removing the discretionary part of the decision process of whether an officer makes an arrest or not. This alone was a tremendous positive due to the fact that race, class, and other socioeconomic factors were taken out of the equation of whether or not an arrest is made. Lastly, research has shown a positive correlation between mandatory arrest policies and a decrease in recidivism by arrested offenders. For example, homicides due to domestic violence decreased from twelve percent to one percent within the first six months of mandatory arrest policies being initiated in Newport News, Virginia (Miller, Peterson 2007).
Despite their positive results, recent research has shown that mandatory arrest policies are much more flawed than lawmakers have expected. Because victims may suffer from “learned helplessness,” a mandatory arrest policy may not do anything for them. “Learned helplessness” is a social theory stating that a victim has “learned through repeated failure that they cannot control their destiny” (Belknap 2007). If a victim suffers from “learned helplessness,” they may not be able to see the alternative options when their batterer has been removed from the house. When this is the case, a mandatory arrest of a batterer will do nothing for them over a long period of time, but is more of a short term solution.
Another negative outcome of mandatory arrest policies is the apathy and routine nature police officers display during a domestic violence arrest. Mandatory arrest policies have provided officers with more training and guidance for identifying and deciding who the aggressor is in a domestic dispute, but research has shown that this training has made an officer rely more on department regulations than his own discretion and instinct. In a study in Connecticut, research found that 33% of domestic disputes ended in a dual-arrest (Hirschel et al). A dual-arrest occurs when police are unable to decide who the offender is in the situation. Although it may seem to be a better alternative than arresting no one, the victim may lose their faith in a department for being falsely arrested. Similar to a drunk-driving arrest, a domestic violence arrest may taint their reputation in their workplace, neighborhood, and other aspects of society. This may lead to not reporting a dispute in the future causing more violence. Within the same study, researchers found that it was actually police department policy to make a dual-arrest in domestic family violence. The purposes of mandatory arrest policies were to help departments and victims alike to identify the aggressors in domestic violence cases, not arrest the victims themselves. In another study in New York, researchers found that nearly 27% of domestic disputes ended in a “no-arrest” because the perpetrator was not at the home after the call was made to the police department. Although a mandatory arrest policy was in effect, police officers did not follow up to make an arrest (Frye, Haviland, Rajah 2007). References Belknap, J. (2007). The invisible woman. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education. Frye, V., Haviland, M., & Rajah, V. (2007). Dual arrest and other unintended consequences of mandatory arrest in new york city: a brief report. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 397-407. Hirschel, D., Buzawa, E., Pattavina, A., & Fagianni, D. (2008). Domestic violence and mandatory arrest laws: to what extent do they influence police arrest decisions?. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 98(1), 255-298. Miller, S., & Peterson, E. (2007). The impact of law enforcement policies on victims of intimate partner violence. It's a Crime: Women and Justice, 4th, 238-260.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Double Standard: Criminal conduct during sport contest

Many of us understand and abide by laws which make us a civilized society. Many of these laws are specifically intended to prevent violence amongst citizens. For example assault and battery on a street corner is clearly illegal and easily spotted and charged. How about when there is an assault which takes place in an organized professional sporting event? Many view these events as glorious spectacles where men who have honed skill and agility to the pinnacle of performance in their respective sport compete against other elite athletes. It is the nature in some sports to use aggression, in some cases it is woven into the identity of the sport itself such as football, hockey, and rugby. Violent collisions or altercations are not limited to these sports however. Throughout sporting history there have been series of scuffles and fights spanning the entire sporting spectrum. Is there a possibility that some of these collisions if delivered with malicious intent may be illegal, and subject to criminal charges? Or is the fact that they are within the coliseum walls that are professional sporting venues make them untouchable by law?

In this entry I would like to focus on one incident in particular while still exploring the subject altogether. The incident which has been the focal point of a media fire storm is the hit which Phoenix defensemen Raffi Torres laid onto Chicago winger Marian Hossa in Game 3 of the NHL opening round playoff series. The hit left Hossa motionless laying on the ice in front of thousands of hometown fans. For anyone who saw the hit in real time it remains vivid how bone crushing the hit was. It was clear that it was in no shape or form a hockey play. Hossa was attempting to skate back towards the puck, while Torres charged directly towards the defenseless winger and blindsided him with a vicious hit. Play came to halt as referees realized a serious injury had taken place.

The aftermath of that hit has defined the entire series. While clearly biased due to their affiliation to the team, most Chicago media outlets reported the hit as malicious, violent, and having no place in sports. I cannot help but to feel the same way. Seeing Torres leap into the air and lower his shoulder directly into the head of Hossa felt like watching an assault. The victim in this assault was a professional athlete at the hands of another. The NHL discipline committee dished out a shocking 25 game suspension to the Phoenix defensemen. This move sparked great debate amongst sport fans. Myself, I must agree with Chicago Superintendent Garry McCarthy who was at the game and in an interview with CSN Chicago stated that he believed the actions by Raffi Torres were “borderline criminal conduct.” He also stated that after the hit Torres cursed at fans as well as pointed his hockey stick at them. I understand this took place during a notorious hard hitting sporting contest, but the actions of this individual to me are truly sickening. This is only due to the consideration that the individual on the receiving end of the hit had his neck stabilized and was taken off the ice in a stretcher.

This is where I would ask my fellow classmates as future criminal justice professionals, would you press criminal charges on a professional athlete under these circumstances?


Behind the BP Oil Spill


               This past week marked the two year anniversary of the disastrous tragedy that was the BP oil rig explosion.  As we all know the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded back in 2010 killing 11 people on board and dumping immense amounts of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  It took BP nearly five months to seal the leak at the bottom of the gulf, but by then the damage had been done and over 210,000,000 gallons had escaped.  Everything in the area was affected, including wildlife, which lead to food and health issues, with BP bearing the brunt of the criticism and rightfully so.

                My mother actually works for British Petroleum, and she said it was a tragedy to say the least, but it shames her to see when people make a mockery of it that don’t know what they are talking about.  In think she is referring to the south park episode that claims the BP oil rig drilled a hole into another dimension, unleashing the dark lord Cthulhu, to wreak havoc on all of earth.  To even further the joke, former CEO of BP, Tony Hayward made several appearances on the three part episode starring in commercials making fun of the “were sorry” campaign.


                All jokes aside the criminal justice aspect finally made its way into the situation recently, charging a former BP engineer with obstruction.  Kurt Mix a resident form Texas was charged by the Department of Justice with obstruction of justice for apparently intentionally destroying evidence about the explosion that the authorities wanted to review.  Attorney General Eric Holder was quoted saying that “Mix allegedly deleted records concerning the amount of oil flowing from the well after the explosion in April of 2010.”  He continued on noting that the Deepwater Horizon Task Force is continuing its investigation into the explosion and will hold all of those in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history accountable.

                Basically what the prosecutors were saying was that Kurt Mix was in charge with estimating and documenting the amount of oil leaking after the explosion and rupture of the well.  BP officials were on record saying that they sent numerous notices to retain all information regarding the leakage.  Mix had a string of text messages with BP officials that apparently contained false information, in fact the information he had indicated that the amount of oil leaking was three times less than it actually was.  Mix then deleted all of these messages.  However as we know cell phone text messages can be retrieved by phone companies well after they have been deleted.  I’m not sure what Mix was doing or what he was trying to cover up, but he had to have known that nothing good was going to come from this.

                In the end Mix can face up to 20 years in prison and up to a 250,000 dollar fine, all for deleting some text messages.  I believe this penalty is a little steep but at the same time with all things taken into consideration it may be well deserved.  After all this is the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.  What do you guys think?

City Official wire fraud 30 Million

This is a story that deals with my neighboring town involving, in my opinion, a large group of city officials being completely corrupt and having no sense of internal affairs or oversight. This is also an example of organizational failure. The case involves the City of Dixon Comptroller “misappropriating” over 30 million dollars over a six year period, all the while loaning lump sums of money to co-workers and fellow horse breeders, charging interest at low rates in order to help her co-workers with small investments under the table.
            Rita Crundwell was a very trusted city official, after performing her duties perfectly for the past decade. She lived a lavish life and was looked up to by the public for her nationally known horse breeding farms. Many wondered where she attainted the proper funds to take care of her two horse ranches, one in Dixon, IL and the other in Beloit, WI.  She was never regarded as a thief, however until lately, she has been reprimanded from position with the city along with being arrested and bailed for $4,500. She remains in the county however on supervision. Her maximum charge for wire fraud, which is only a one count indictment, says 20 years following a 250,000 fine for punishment.

 The feds have reportedly seized most of Mrs. Crundwell’s financial documents along with her many assets involving her horse activity. A 2.1 million dollar RV was seized along with over 25 top-of-the line horse breeds. The Federal Bureau of Investigations plans on obtaining search warrants for the city officials in which Rita lent to.  Allow most claim that these were personal loans and involved nothing with city money, the feds are digging as deep as possible to uncover the truth and obtain enough evidence to convict anyone involved. Thirty million dollars in my neck of the woods is an absolute absurd amount of money to be stolen. The internal affairs branch is beginning to investigate because this amount of money is out of hand for a six year period.  She was transported to Rockford federal courthouse and charged, waiving her right to a preliminary hearing. She was arrested Tuesday morning at the Dixon City Hall, and has remained in the Ogle County jail since. This is a super sensitive subject throughout my area and many people knew her personally. This is very surprising and I’m excited to see the final outcome.