Sunday, May 31, 2015

how Nils Christie died

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
May 31, 2015
 I thank Mette Ofstad, whose family and mine befriended when they spent a year in Bloomington, for sending me this news of how Nils Christie died:
I just wanted to tell you that Nils Christie died on Thursday 27th May. Actually he was in the centre of Oslo when a tram hit him. It is so sad. He was a very well known person in Norway.
 Nils Christie long ago became a big part of my family’s life, one of my most profound teachers.
 It was a mystery to us at the Justice Studies Association meeting how Nils had died, only that it was sudden.  Nils remains alive in my memories of our times together, and in all that he taught me to see and to question, most profoundly in myself, just as he has done with so many people in his many walks of life throughout the world.  I celebrate the news that when he died, it was without warning and without suffering, as the vigorous and youthful educator he remains to me.  Love and peace, hal

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cincinnati Policing


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

May 21, 2015


                It has been my experience that just when I am looking for particular examples of peacemaking, they come to me.  That was the case recently with the story of policing in Richmond, CA, that I blogged about.  I have further found that what I notice away from home comes close to home if I’m looking for it.  This morning, the locally broadcast BBC “Newshour” contained a segment on the style of policing introduced by a chief who had retired from the force in my home city, Columbus, Ohio.  It turns out that the BBC has a series of three video reports on how police in Cincinnati work, at .  Here, too, is a report from Cincinnati on the visit two days ago by US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, to celebrate policing there as an exemplary police response to their own “broken window” policing: .

                It is not that Cincinnati policing is utopian.  It is acknowledged to be a work in progress.  While the initiative (rather than cooperation) that reorients policing toward public safety and welfare surely also comes from community groups and organizations.

                Once again, it is an irony that I have had to go abroad to find out what has been going on right around me all along.   It reflects an underlying truth:  The heat of violence and demands for punishment is so much louder than the fruits of peacemaking.  At root, peacemaking means amplifying the voices and stories less heard in the games of attaining power over other we play in all our relations, especially in the minds of those of us who hold the greater power, in the process of building trust in our shared humanity.  It turns out that if you make a point of looking for peacemaking, it might just find you.

                My thanks to the BBC for showing that peacemaking policing is real, with real effects, especially so close to home.  I encourage readers to check out the BBC trilogy, colleagues to share with students.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, May 8, 2015

the "crime" fetish


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

May 8, 2015


                My recent critique of NYPD-based, CompStat enabled, “broken windows” police (“’Broken Windows’ Unjustified,” May 6) rests on two decades trying to understand what “crime” and “criminality” statistics mean, from a law-school class in 1967, through the study “Explaining Police-Recorded Crime Trends in Sheffield (UK)” (Contemporary Crises 11, pp. 59-73, Jan. 1987; pdf’s of this and other articles cited here available on request to those who can’t get them online).

                The class on “crime and society” was taught by the Executive Director of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, James Vorenberg, and the Director of its Task Force on Assessment of Crime, just before the Commission issued its reports in 1967.  There we were introduced to national victim surveys, the first of their kind.  Our primary question on the final exam was to imagine oneself to be a congressional intern advising on the significance of rising police-reported crime rates.  I wrote that the connection between what police reported and what actually happened in communities they policed was unknown.  I got one of my two worst law-school grades in that course, which inspired my choice of sociology dissertation topic several years later.

                For my dissertation, in a “high-crime” area of Minneapolis, I gathered over 80 items of information, starting with the date, time, and code given in the call for service, describing and detailing any interactions with complainants/witnesses, ending with what offense, if any was reported.  In 373 calls for service during 500 hours of patrol, on all shifts, over a period of about one year, 97 offenses of all kinds were reported.  Ninety-three of those reports occurred after the dispatcher had named an offense in the call, where the police founded a complainant’s naming of any offense, while in at least 22 calls where the dispatcher had not named an offense but complainants had described one, no offense reports were filed.  In sum, when dispatchers sent police to check on offenses and they found corroboration of any offense, they created crime statistics.  Without that signal from dispatchers, police never reported offenses, regardless of what complainants reported.  The police, meanwhile, believed that their decisions were simply based on the evidence at hand, and were surprised by the results.  The study was published as “Police Patrolmen’s Offense-Reporting Behavior,” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 13 (Jan. 1976, pp. 33-47).  And so I learned that police discretion whether to report create crime statistics can rest heavily on factors independent of “the true” incidence or rate of crime.

                I am grateful to my dissertation adviser, Marvin Wolfgang, for the access he gave me to his copious files of reprints of articles on the history of crime measurement from Europe to the United States.  I supplemented my Minneapolis findings with a critique of “The Growth of Crime [Measurement] in the United States” (Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Jan. 1976, pp. 22-30).  I traced how the size and political weight of “the crime problem” had grown, from judicial data beginning early in the 19th century, to newly touted victim and self-report survey data.  This comparison of measures of crime evolved into a book, Crime Control Strategies: An Introduction to the Study of Crime (New York: Oxford U. Press, 1980), where a chapter at a time I “evaluated chances of controlling rates” of convictions, arrests, police offense reports,” victimization reports, self-reports, and recidivism, plus a chapter on cost-benefit analyses.  In each category, compared choices of rate numerators and denominators, type I and II error factors in applying statistics using the measures, political considerations in implementation, and side effects of policies based on those data, where I traced trends in victimization and differences in self-reporting to changes in interviewing and in respondents’ relationships with data collectors.  Fundamentally, crime and criminality trends reflected trends and differences in the behavior of the data gatherers and in how the data providers perceived themselves in the eyes of their interrogators.

                This was followed by two longitudinal studies of police crime reporting.  The first was an analysis of police offense reports and arrests, with William Selke:  “The Politics of Police Reporting in Indianapolis, 1948-1978,” Law and Human Behavior 6 (Dec. 1982: 329-342).  Police data were supplemented by news reports from the Indianapolis Star and News.  When two-way radios in patrol cars were introduced in the latter 1950s, “index” crime reports shot up.  Criticized for failure to curb mounting crime, the Indianapolis police turned their focus to making arrests, which rose as reported offenses declined.  Then public complaints that police weren’t taking offense reports and weren’t clearing offenses by arrest.  In the uproar, offense reports swung upward while arrests declined, until public alarm over police losing control of crime swung the trends back.  I labeled these recurring cycles t“the roller coaster effect” of law enforcement reporting.  This brought home to me the inverse relationship between trends in index offense rates, and arrests, most of which are for public order offenses rather than “serious crime.”  THIS NEGATIVE RELATIONSHIP--BETWEEN INDEX OFFENSE REPORTING AND PUBLIC ORDER ARRESTS (AND THE STOPS AND FRISKS THAT PRECEDE THEM)--EXPLAINS HOW COMPSTAT-GROUNDED BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING PROMOTES CHRONICALLY EXCESSIVE, OCCASIONALLY HOMICIDAL, POLICE USE OF FORCE, AND ATTENDANT WAVES OF PROTEST AGAINST THE WAY LAW IS ENFORCED IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES OF COLOR IN PARTICULAR.

                In the Sheffield study cited above, I had great assistance of the police in gathering extraordinarily detailed monthly printouts of crime recording records, and in interpreting patterns there from 1974-1979.  In this and in trends from earlier years, a variety of demographic changes failed to correspond to social and economic shifts.  However, with a surge of more highly educated recruits, during their first two years of probationary status, reports of “notifiable” offences climbed dramatically.  It was followed by a wave of criticism that the police “clear-up” (crime solving) rate had fallen below the normally acceptable fifty percent.  Patrol constables were reportedly instructed to avoid taking nuisance reports for offenses that could not be cleared.  AS IN INDIANAPOLIS, records in Sheffield show an ensuing rise in arrests on one hand, in offense reports being “no crimed” (wiped off the books) more, and in previously reported offenses being “cleared” as “taken into consideration” (TIC-ed) during suspect interrogations, while notifiable offenses dropped, and clear-up rates rose back to acceptable levels.

                I concluded the Sheffield study by calling for a moratorium on using counts of crime and criminality to evaluate and implement criminal justice policy.  I had also envisioned how police and community members together could formulate and apply performance evaluation criteria that included a variety of ways police could “protect and serve” communities (in “Better Living Through Police Discretion,” Law and Contemporary Problems 47, no. 4, 1984, pp. 249-267), for police and civilians to build trust, respect and growing sense of safety and security together.  Not only does “broken windows” policing endanger police and civilian lives alike; statistical evidence that it works is illusory.

                It took me a long time to give up on finding any connection between reported crimes and the lives of people in the communities from which reports are taken, and has led me instead to focus on ways human relations deteriorate or grow safer and more dependable in parallel fashion at all social levels, in all social settings (a paradigm laid out in Peacemaking: Reflections of a Radical Criminologist, UOttawa Press, 2006; final page proofs for free download at [site currently down for maintenance; I have a copy]).

                I am aware that how centrally grounded criminological knowledge, and criminal justice policy and practice, are grounded in the assumption that lower crime rates and more crime control activity are evidence that the criminal justice system works.  I want colleagues especially to know that I have not arrived at my rejection of the validity of this research construct lightly.  Love and peace, hal

The Problem of Privatization


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

May 8, 2015e


                The final 20-minute segment of today’s broadcast features Lisa Graves presenting the Center for Media and Democracy’s ( report on charter schools.  Graves points to lack of access to charter school records as the primary obstacle to monitoring the performance of for-profit enterprises.  Privatization of education entails lack of accountability for use of taxpayer funds.  Most glaring to this viewer of the Democracy Now! Is graves example of how high “administrative expenses,” including subcontracting student services can be, to say nothing of lobbying  expenses.

                Graves traces the root of the growth of privatized k-12 education to the American Legislative Exchange Council (see the Center’s report at, and to a couple of ALEC’s founding members, the Koch brothers (, and theorist Milton Friedman.  ALEC pays legislators across the country to gather with business leaders to draft model legislation.  ALEC’s first major project, under leadership of the Corrections Corporation of America, was to write laws to privatize prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers, which have thrived and become notorious for underpaying and staffing, and for barring even legislators from trespassing on their properties, let alone seeing their financial records.

                In prisons as in education and indeed in performance of any public service, privatization prevents oversight of service providers whose primary corporate duty is to maximize profit.  Denial of public accountability is the primary cost of privatizing government services.

                During my tenure at Indiana University, I became able (with help from a state representative and the state attorney general) to view the IU financial record of my choice, in this case the president’s office account) on request.  The university subsequently opened promotion and tenure files to candidates’ inspection.  IU staff and students were all entitled to due process in decisions made about them, and in consideration of their grievances.  The difference being a public institution and working or living in a private institution when I tried helping faculty in promotion and tenure cases and grievances at private institutions.

                Margaret Thatcher started the global movement to privatize government services when she became British Prime Minister in 1979.  The problems today’s interview with Lisa Graves raises about privatizing public education apply to privatizing all public services.  In principle, public services ought to be performed and managed publicly.  That’s the problem of putting government enterprises up for sale.  Love and peace, hal

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Broken windows" policing unjustified


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

May 6, 2015


                On the bright side, recent events in Baltimore have drawn “broken windows” policing into question.  The theory is that concerted efforts at arresting people for minor offenses and for not taking care of their property interrupt the decline of neighborhoods into more serious crime.  Yesterday, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, defended the policy on grounds of its effectiveness in serious crime prevention ( ).  Unfortunately, that claim was left unquestioned in by the news media.

                There are eight “index” crimes that law enforcement agencies across the country are asked to report: murder/non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson.  In 1993, NYPD adopted a data processing system called CompStat, now installed many places around the world.  Police commanders get daily printouts.  When figures first came out indicating impressive decreases in “major crimes,” Bill Chambliss and Roland Chilton found for instance that reported suicides had dramatically increased which Chambliss used to illustrate how CompStat figures were rigged from the outset (in Power, Politics, and Crime, 1999, at p.43).  Looking back at old blog posts, I found a link to a 2011 interview with former NYPD officer Adrian Schoolcraft, who recorded both demands to meet arrest targets for a variety of petty offenses, and to increase stops, and not to report index crimes of robbery and rape.  I highly recommend this introduction to the art of using computer technology to make your crime and arrest numbers, at .  It is an instance of the general principle that crime and criminality figures can more readily be explained as counters’ behavior than as representative of the behavior of those counted.  Under the CompStat regime, members of communities of color become valued as suspects, and dismissed as complainants, with no demonstrable justification.  “Broken windows” policing is counterproductive, period.  Love and peace, hal

Friday, May 1, 2015

China's earthquake preparedness


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

May 1, 2015


                Yesterday, I was struck by the disdain with which a BBC reporter in northeast Nepal described the Chinese response to the earthquake, where today in Nepal the death toll has climbed past 6,000.  The reporter complained that foreign reporters had no access to the Chinese-controlled part of Tibet adjoining Nepal.  Accordingly, the Chinese claim that only 25 lives had been lost on its territory “could not be verified,” she said, and to make matters worse, international agencies could not gain access to send in aid.

                I checked the New China News Agency web site. Their primary story is of a tent city that they have set up on the Nepalese border, complete with electricity and plumbing, even internet service, to hold at least 1,000 refugees.  They indeed report 25 lives lost and two border towns destroyed.  Their second story features the crew celebrating having cleared the two-lane trade route into Nepal of landslides, showing the road itself intact and open to traffic.  My inference:  for a country its size, in an area remote from Beijing, the Chinese have done a remarkable job both of building infrastructure, and of having a national army and other forces at hand to respond to natural disasters in a way that puts my country’s responses, let alone the response both internally and globally in Nepal, to shame.  For all we in my part of the world celebrate how materially and technologically advanced we are in the West, the infrastructure and disaster response of the Chinese is a testament to the power of a government to support public infrastructure, and to be accessible in time of need.  And sometimes, failure to open up to outside aid and publicity may indicate that people are too busy taking care of business to be disturbed.  Love and peace, hal