City considering wiping out all 56,000 arrest warrants because they’re causing “psychological trauma” to criminals

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The city of New Orleans has issued some warrants. 56,000 of them to be exact. The equates to 1 out of every 7 adults in New Orleans. Almost all of them are for failure to appear to handle a citation of some sort. 94 percent of those were for misdemeanor offenses such as public intoxication and fishing without a license. Some of these warrants date back to 2002.

A group of community activists, working in conjunction with the District Attorney’s office have an idea on how to address this problem.

Delete the warrants and any fines or fees associated with them. Dismiss the original charges and forget that these individuals did not show up to court as their summons directed.

So, forget that these 56,000 individuals violated some element of criminal statutes? Forget that they failed to appear in court.

Yep!

At least that is what a coalition of elected officials, local civil rights organizations such as Stand With Dignity and the public defender’s office is proposing as a permanent solution: wiping out nearly all 56,000 warrants, in addition to any debt accumulated from fines and fees.

If successful, New Orleans would be at the forefront of a growing movement to curb the use of warrants and the threat of arrest when the underlying charge might be little more than public intoxication. Only two cities, Ferguson, Missouri, and San Francisco (as well as the state of New Jersey) have attempted anything similar, according to the Fines and Fees Justice Center in New York.

“We need to consider all the damage this has caused and the psychological trauma it continues to impose on the minds and hearts and confidences of 14 percent of our population,” said City Council member Jason Williams. “This is New Orleans’s working poor. This is the hospitality community, musicians. These are people who are some of the reasons why people come to New Orleans in the first place.”

So, being a poor musician working in a hotel cocktail lounge is now a reason to have your charges dropped and allow you to avoid paying restitution?

What does that mean financially? The website for the Municipal and Traffic Court of New Orleans does not list the associated court fees or the fine for failure to appear. Using the smallest fine listed as a conservative estimate for what that fine would look like, erasing every last warrant would cost the city $8,540,000.

That figure does not include the fines associated with the original infractions. Assuming again the smallest fine listed, that would bring the total amount of lost revenue to $17,080,000.

According to the Stamford Advocate, not everyone is on board with eradicating every outstanding warrant. Paul Sens, chief judge of the Municipal Court, prides himself on operating “one of the most progressive courts in the United States,” but he worries that blanket amnesty would send the wrong message.

“There are a lot of people who come into this court and do what’s expected of them,” Sens said. “So why did this guy who’s got 20 cases and $5,000 worth of fines get his wiped out and they didn’t? It’s a balancing act you have to do.”

Sens also said that people should not fear being the subject of a warrant, because he requires an arrest only for missed court dates associated with domestic violence or driving while intoxicated. For nearly 80 percent of warrants, officers decide whether to arrest the individual.

“The police are given wide discretion, so this is not something that’s really hanging over people’s heads,” Sens said.

Some say that will do little to calm the fears of the black community.

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City considering wiping out all 56,000 arrest warrants because they're causing "psychological trauma" to criminals

 

Bill Quigley, director of the law clinic at Loyola University, said that provides little comfort to the black citizens of New Orleans, who are more likely to have frequent and unpleasant encounters with the police.

“Things that are discretionary in the criminal justice system in New Orleans are always exercised at the expense of people of color and people without economic resources,” Quigley said. “Not so much if you’re a white law professor at Loyola.”

Unfortunately for Bill, the numbers do not quite support his conclusion.

According to the 2018 US Census, the population of New Orleans was 391,600. The black community comprises almost 60 percent of that population, totaling 234,177. The black population outnumbers the white population almost two to one.  

The New Orleans Police Department provided the following statement:

“Once a warrant is verified, an officer has no discretion regarding taking that individual into custody.” 

So, the NOPD is saying that their policing practices do not target blacks or poor people. They target lawbreakers.

Quigley’s assertion that arrest for warrants only affect minorities and poor people is asinine at best.

The catalyst to New Orleans push for warrant dismissal? Ferguson, Missouri. 

Questions about municipal warrants and their impact on public safety intensified after Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in 2014 in Ferguson.

Being that Brown had no prior record, one must wonder what it was about his death led to such an inquiry.

An investigation of the city’s police department found that more than 16,000 people (people, not warrants) had outstanding municipal warrants in a city of 21,000 people, and those warrants were “almost exclusively” used as a threat to generate revenue from poor, black communities through fines and fees, which they could not afford to pay.

Once again, reality doesn’t support the findings.

First, the report shows that 76 percent of the city’s population had a warrant. 4,900 people in Ferguson are 15 years or younger. Based on that alone, the study would indicate that every adult in Ferguson had a warrant.

Secondly, the report would have us believe that these warrants were issued “almost exclusively” to members of poor, black communities. While the black population makes up almost 70 percent of the city, roughly 25 percent of black citizens live in poverty.

This results in only 23 percent of all warrants being issued to a black resident who lives below the poverty line.  However, when you remove the residence who are under the age of 15, that pushes the number down to 17 percent of warrants issued fit into the “poor, black community” demographic.

That is a far cry from “almost exclusively.”

Five months after the investigation was finished, the Ferguson Municipal Court dismissed all warrants issued before December 31, 2014, totaling approximately 10,000 of the original 16,000.

We must get away from this mindset that policing is a racist concept. Tickets, warrants and fines are not directed “almost exclusively” at any minority community or those with no financial means. They are directed at lawbreakers.

By the way, in case you missed it, five officers died in Chicago last week. Oh, and more than 2,000 people have been shot there this year.     

More than 2,000 people have been shot in Chicago so far in 2019.  Let that sink in for a minute.  A city with some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

The Chicago Police Department suffered the loss of five officers just last week alone to suicide and severe injuries on the job.

One of those officers was killed on Saturday morning.  He was gunned down and left in critical condition as he attempted to serve a warrant in the city’s South Side Englewood District.

He was working in the CPD’s fugitive apprehension unit.  The officer was shot while trying to arrest a man who was accused of shooting a woman on a bicycle last week.

Two other officers were seriously injured thanks to another criminal.  Police say a suspect dragged them both down the street with his car as he attempted to escape police.  It happened near a South Side White Castle restaurant in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

The officers had rushed to the restaurant after a call came in to 911 operators about a man with a gun.

Another veteran officer took his own life last week – 40-year-old Paul Escamilla.  He was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Northwest Side forest preserve… found days before a retired 61-year-old officer was found in his home on Saturday after taking HIS own life.

In 2018, Chicago PD suffered five suicides.

“Please keep all the officers in your prayers,” president of the Fraternal Order of Police told the media on Saturday. “They go out and do an amazing job every single day and night. Please keep that in mind.”

In 2018, Chicago lost four officers in the line of duty – two hit by a train and two shot to death by criminals.  Since it started in 1835, CPD has lost nearly 600 officers.

In August, the Chicago Police Department  released a haunting audio clip that demonstrates the constant state of violent crime that continues to terrorize the city… and the battles that police officers have to face every single day. 

Chicago Police Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi tweeted the audio clip to emphasize the severity of the situation. 

“Audio from the tragic shooting at 18th & Kildare yesterday shows that criminals have no deterrent to carrying illegal guns in our city and this is what residents and police are up against.”

Again – so far in 2019, more than 2,000 people have been reported shot in the Illinois city.

 

That tweet came out around the same time that Chicago authorities reported that a total of seventeen people had been victims of shootings in just three separate incidents on a summer Sunday.

The carnage was so bad that a local hospital near Lawndale was forced to stop admitting patients because they had reportedly been filled to capacity. 

Read that again. The hospital stopped allowing patients in because they had no means to treat them.

What is going on in this city?

A 5-year-old boy riding in a vehicle also was among the shooting victims this weekend, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

 

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City considering wiping out all 56,000 arrest warrants because they're causing "psychological trauma" to criminals

 

Strict gun laws are in place. So shouldn’t we see the trend of criminal violence and shootings go down?

Apparently it doesn’t work like that. (Someone should tell our elected leaders.)

Their age to purchase a firearm is 21. The state requires gun owners to obtain licenses and face background checks as well as imposing waiting periods on firearms purchases. Judges can take guns away from owners who are deemed to be a threat to themselves or others. And recent legislation aims to begin a fingerprinting database of all gun owners in the state.

Yet the city is still a war zone. How could this be?

The problem seems to be (both in Chicago and around the country)… that legal gun owners are not the ones causing the issues.

AP News reported that from 2013 to 2016, almost 7,000 illegal guns were recovered each year in Chicago, according to the city’s Gun Trace Report. In 2017, the total was 7,932, according to the Chicago police. As of Dec. 6, the total for 2018 was 8,309, and police say that could surpass 10,000 by year’s end.

So what comes next? Swift new laws that attempt to tackle the problem head-on? Or do we study areas that have enacted these types of laws and measure their success? Only time will tell. 

But you know what’s not helping the situation?  The media.

In July of last year, we published the story of an officer involved shooting in Chicago. Harith Augustus was shot and killed while trying to flee. It was not the act of fleeing that resulted in his death. It was the fact that he was known to be armed and the officers involved believed he was attempting to draw his weapon.

Now, more than a year later, a collaborative group is trying to create a narrative that paints the Chicago Police Department as liars and its officers as racists and murderers.

Just how might they be able to prove this you ask. They can’t.

They are simply making statements and portraying them as true. They provide no credible evidence to support their thesis. And they are using architectural design software to build their case.

In a piece run by The Interceptor earlier this week, two groups are highlighted for the anti-police narrative being reported.

The article states that Forensic Architecture and Invisible Institute have collaborated on a project that excavates this carefully crafted formulation in search of the truth of what happened on 71st Street that day. By means of new forensic techniques and on-the-ground reporting, our counter-investigation contests the official police narrative and examines the process by which that narrative was constructed.

Their only evidence? A dash cam video that shows only two to three seconds of video that was captured with Augustus and CPD Officer Halley.

In this video, was see Augustus run past the patrol car and into the street and the officer following him with gun drawn. They use that small clip to refute police claims. They said he was fleeing and had no weapon. Thus, they conclude, the police are lying, and Augustus was murdered in cold blood.

As reported in Law Enforcement Today, footage from body cameras and other surveillance video showed that Augustus was not only armed with a handgun but reached for it as he resisted officers who confronted him, officials said Sunday.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that the 37-year old, had a holstered semiautomatic handgun (and what appeared to be extra magazines) tucked into his waistband when officers confronted him on the city’s South Side, reported Fox News.

The weapon can be clearly seen in the body cam footage. According to patrol chief Fred Waller, Augustus broke free and ran from the officers, who believed “he appeared to be reaching for a weapon” and shot him.

The video actually shows his hand on the weapon as if he were drawing it. The important piece of this footage is that the suspect did not have his back turned to police as if running away but in fact, had spun and was facing the officers as his hand went to his waistband.

Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans?  It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans.  Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice.  Check it out today.

City considering wiping out all 56,000 arrest warrants because they're causing "psychological trauma" to criminals

 

Now, keep in mind, this small amount of footage is what they are using to refute larger amounts of footage from multiple angles that all say the same thing.

They pinned their hope of contesting police and witness accounts on a 3-second clip. And that comes after they criticize Chicago PD for editing the body camera footage to show only what they wanted it to show.

Police sent the handgun and two magazines of bullets for forensic testing, said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, who added that Augustus wasn’t a known gang member and had no recent arrest history.

Nevertheless, Augustus’ death sparked angry protests. As a result, four protesters were arrested after scuffles broke out; some officers suffered minor injuries from thrown rocks and bottles, some filled with urine. Officers were required to use force to include pulling people to the ground and using batons. Moreover, two squad cars were also damaged during the melee.

Johnson told reporters he ordered the footage released to address any misinformation about the shooting and maintain calm in a bid to avoid a repeat of Saturday’s unrest.

“If we expect neighborhoods to cooperate with police, we need to do our part to remain transparent,” Johnson said.

The article, entitled HOW CHICAGO POLICE CREATED A FALSE NARRATIVE AFTER OFFICERS KILLED HARITH AUGUSTUS, concludes that the dashboard camera video cannot prove anything.

In an ironic twist, it also claims in big, bold letters that“The Video Speaks for Itself.”

So, does the video speak for itself, or can it not prove anything definitively?

The piece also took a shot at the “this was all the police’s fault to begin with” argument. Stating, “Without any verbal warning and without probable cause to initiate an arrest, Officer Megan Fleming grabbed his arm from behind. Startled, he sought to break free and took several stumbling steps into the street.”

Yet the body cam footage shows differently. He did stumble, not because he was startled, but because he bounced off a car running into the street. And startled or not, he attempted to run from the police, who were actively questioning him at that time.

Add all of that up. You have a man who is carrying a concealed weapon (it was never reported whether he was licensed to carry the weapon), running from the police and reaching for that weapon during his attempt to evade.

Ignoring these facts, a group of architectural ‘experts’ partnered with some community activists (who claim they exist to hold the government accountable) for the sole purpose of disproving the police account in this particular officer involved shooting.

Here are some simple facts since the beginning of 2010 through August of 2018: 25,934 people were shot in Chicago. 78.9% of the shooting victims are black, 15.6% are Hispanic. Of those shootings, 337 were officer-involved (about 1.3% of all shootings).

Perhaps they should spend some time trying out how to solve the violent crimes plaguing that same city.

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