Justice and Crime in the Same Sentence?

September 30, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Roman Polanski case – or more accurately, the reaction to it – should serve as a reminder that ideas about punishment are usually less concerned with its effect on criminals than its effect on non-criminals. We want crime policies that make us feel good, regardless of their effect on crime. We call this “justice.”

Some of Polanski’s supporters argue that he has suffered enough. Critics like Gautham Nagesh caustically shred that logic, arguing implicitly that no, he hasn’t suffered enough, he should suffer more. And while those on both sides, especially the Nageshes, claim to be concerned about child rape, nobody has anything to say about how what happens to Polanski will affect actual child rape. That’s partly because nobody really knows, but mostly because what’s at issue is not crime; it’s justice.

Polanski committed his crime thirty years ago and since then has, as far as anyone knows, committed no others. The idea that sending him to prison now will prevent crime by incapacitating or rehabilitating him is out of the question. It’s also hard to argue that punishing him now will deter other potential child rapists. No doubt, some people will argue that the case, especially because Polanski is famous, will “send a message,” but there’s no evidence that what happens to Polanski will have any effect. Besides, if Polanski is so important, why have these people not been urging his arrest and extradition for the last few decades?

Often, the justice-seekers claim to be proxies for the victim, especially in murder cases. They demand the death penalty, carrying signs that say things like “Justice for Jessica,” though Jessica, unfortunately, no longer walks this plane to enjoy the justice that will come from the execution.

The Supreme Court has agreed with this use of the justice system as a vehicle for personal feelings. Victims and relatives may now make “victim impact” statements that affect sentencing. Unfortunately for the justice-seekers in the Polanski case, the victim herself is on record as wanting no further punishment for the criminal. In fact, she issued a statement that the further pursuit of the case is hurting her and her family. So, as with the “justice for Jessica” types, it’s clear that the feelings the justice-seekers are concerned with are their own.

Arguments about justice are fine for a case in the headlines. That’s probably why the case is in the headlines – it’s a vehicle for justice, a vehicle that we can all ride on and try to steer in the direction we like. The trouble arises when we use these cases and our reactions to them as the basis for policies on sentencing, and when we think that the sentences that satisfy our sense of justice will also bring less crime.

What’s New, Pussycat?

September 29, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Lisa at Sociological Images linked to some in-house research reported on the blog of OK Cupid , an online dating site. I assume that OK works like Match.com – you look at people’s profiles; if you’re interested, you send them a message. Maybe they respond, or maybe they ignore you.

At OK Cupid, about two-thirds of the messages get no response.

The Cupidologists did a content analysis of 500,000 messages to find out what increases or decreases that rate. For example, should you compliment the person on their appearance?

The red bars heading south show response rates below the 32% average. Tell someone she’s sexy, and you’ve cut your chances in half. Messages containing the word “hot” (regardless of context – even if it was about the weather), decreased the chances of response from 32% to 25% (probably not about the weather). The authors say that this finding applied to both sexes but that men were much more likely to use these terms. OTOH, non-physical compliment words (green bars) can raise your chances by a few percentage points. (BTW, netspeak terms in messages killed ur chances of a response.)

And the term had the biggest positive effect?

“You mention.” In other words, “I actually read what you wrote in your profile.” Or, “I’m interested in what you said, not just in how you look.”

I wonder whether something similar applies in face-to-face first encounters – i.e., pick-up lines. Of course, when you see someone in a bar, the only information you have is their appearance. You don’t yet know about long walks on the beach.

Salutations aren’t pick-up lines, but the OKers do say that greetings made a difference. A message that began, “How’s it going?” was more than twice as likely to get a response as “Hi.”

OK also has other research reports (e.g., “Rape Fantasies and Hygiene By State”), but these are based on surveys of their clients. The sample is large, but there may be problems of representativeness.)

Kill and Maim — But Please, No Violence

September 26, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

The Times this morning has an article about Najibulla Zazi – the guy who was buying all that peroxide and nail polish remover in order to make bombs. (“I have a lot of girlfriends,” he told an employee of the Beauty Supply Warehouse who had asked him about the large quantities. In the context of what we now know, the line sounds like something out of a Monty Python sketch.*)

The Times is trying to “explain his embrace of violence.”

The trouble is that although we think that “violence” is a quality of the act, the way we usually use the word shows that whether an act is violent depends on who does it and why. To destroy the World Trade Towers killing 3000 people, that’s violence. But what about bombing Baghdad in shock and awe. Nobody in this country ever refers to that as violence.

The Times article provides another example:
Friends said that Najib later came to love videos on YouTube that featured Zakir Naik, a physician in India and a prominent speaker on Islam. Dr. Naik has been a controversial figure among Muslims and has been criticized for endorsing polygamy and Islamic criminal law, wherein the hands of a thief are chopped off, calling it “the most practical.” . . .

Dr. Naik does not preach violence . . .
I thought that cutting off someone’s hands was an act of violence. Naive me. But then, I also thought it was violent to kill a person. But you never hear capital punishment referred to as “violence” except by a few death-penalty abolitionists.

So if Zazi was, as is alleged, planning to bomb Yankee Stadium or Penn Station, he probably didn’t consider it violence.

The word has taken on a sort of tribal quality. Violence is what “they” do to “us.” If we do it to them, or if it’s justifiable in some other way, it’s not “violence.”

* Maybe one with the B&B with Mr. Hilter.

Philosophy — Child's Play*

September 24, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston
I think that in no country in the civilized world is
less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States.
So wrote deTocqueville 175 years ago. Perhaps the converse is also true – that in no country is more attention paid to philosophy than in France. (Or is that the obverse? the transverse? the freeverse? I’d know if I’d ever taken a course in philosophy or logic, which, like a good American, I haven’t.)

I cited this French penchant for philosophy in a post a couple of years ago, where I also quoted Adam Gopnik’s speculation that French magazines might have “theory checkers” – he might just as well have said “philosophy checkers” or “logic checkers” – the way American publications have fact-checkers. “Just someone to make sure that all your premises agreed with your conclusions, that there aren’t any obvious errors of logic in your argument, that all your allusions flow together in a coherent stream—that kind of thing.”

It seems that in France, kids are weaned on philosophy. It’s as though they go straight from breast milk to Descartes (and St. Emilion). Here’s a photo taken by the wonderful water colorist Carol Gillott and posted on her Paris Breakfasts blog.

It’s from a display at the Paris Salon de Livre. The books, by Oscar Brenifier, are philosophy for kids. Savoir, C’est Quoi? Le Beau et l’Art, C’est Quoi? Moi, C’est Quoi? And so on.

The cover of Savoir, C'est Quoi promises “Six questions for juggling with ideas and looking behind appearances.” Questions like, “How do you know the universe exists?” and “Is it important to think [réfléchir]?”

In France, it seems, it’s important for kids to be exposed to ways of thinking like a grown-up, thinking seriously. In the US, we remain suspicious of philosophy, the love of thinking for its own sake.**

* The title is a variant on a cookbook for kids by Michel Oliver, La cuisine est un jeu d'enfants. Translating it as Cooking is Child’s Play just leads to too many obvious puns, especially now with “Julia and Julie” in the theaters. Like philosophy, cooking is something the French take seriously, and they convey that attitude to their children.

** Not completely. I should add that Montclair State for many years has had the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children.

The Good Wife

September 23, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

“The Good Wife,” says the New York Times’s TV critic, “may turn out to be the best new drama.” If so, it had better figure out what’s foreground and what’s background.

The opening episode for the most part was straight Perry Mason. The DA has a slam-dunk murder case. The defendant’s lawyer finds that the case is even more hopeless than it seemed, but then she goes to work. Embarrassed in the early part of the trial by DA and judge, she comes back not only to make a fool of the DA’s team, not only to establish enough reasonable doubt for acquittal, but during cross-examination to reveal who the real murderer was. Yep, the defense lawyer solved the crime while the Law and Order set were pursuing the wrong person.

My objection (and I hope it’s sustained) is that the interesting stuff, and what apparently got the show on the air, has nothing to do with crimes and trials. Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margolies) is, as the title says, the good wife, not the good lawyer (though of course she’s a good lawyer too). She’s the good wife (the title drips with conflict if not irony) because she remains married to her husband, even though he is in prison following a politically charged sex scandal. You watch the show to see how Alicia copes with her snappish boss, also a woman (Christine Baransky channeling Sigourney Weaver in “Working Girl”), with her husband, her kids, the nasties in the DA’s office, and the rest. You don’t watch it to find out who shot JR.

No doubt, all these people will present Alicia with a host of problems, problems that she’ll survive and surmount, all the while solving crimes, winning cases, and wearing really nice clothes.

Dixie Land Looks Away

September 21, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

“What’s with Mississippi? Is that, like, some other country?” a student once asked. She had been looking at data on the 50 states and noticed that on several of the variables, Mississippi ranked at the extreme.

I suppresed my Nina Simone bit, saying merely something like, “Well it’s not too different from some of the other Southern states.

But is the South, like, some other country?

Research on the US often splits the Region variable into two categories – South and nonSouth, and with good reason. It works.

Here’s a graph by Stephen Benen at Washington Monthly The data are from a recent Daily Kos poll, so it’s possible that the numbers tilt toward the Democrats. But that would not affect the differences among regions.

Joshua Tucker at The Monkey Cage reprints the graph and adds, “if I saw this type of regional distribution of support for a political party in a country like Slovakia, I would assume the party represented an ethnic minority.”

Among the citizens, the GOP may be the functional equivalent of an ethnic minority party. But it’s minority party with national power far beyond its electoral appeal. For starters, it effectively has veto power over national legislation, it controls the Supreme Court, it represents powerful economic interests, and it runs an entire TV network.

David Brooks Gets It Right (Just a Little)

September 18, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

From David Brooks’s column this morning

Of course he didn’t stop. Writing, I mean. He should have. Instead, Brooks went on to argue that the anti-Obama protests have nothing to do with race. That’s no doubt true of some of the protesters, maybe a majority.

But what about the ones who march under the flag of a country that fought a war against the United States of America and on the side of racism? They are a minority perhaps, but certainly not the fringe. They are numerous enough to have elected a Congressman like Joe Wilson, who fought to keep that flag flying above the Statehouse.

The anti-Obama protests are not about race in the same way that Prohibition was not about immigration and ethnicity. It’s about “small-town virtues and limited government” in the same way that Prohibition was about sobriety.

As I argued earlier (here), health care, bailouts, and other policies are convenient policy matters that the protesters have seized upon. What’s really at issue is their anguish at no longer running the show and their anger that they and others who look and think the way they do have lost their position of dominance. They feel that it is their country and that people who are not like them have taken it away. They consider the Obama presidency illegitimate. Which is maybe why their signs are about money, taxes, Freedom, abortion, and socialism. They say nothing about democracy, that nasty process that allowed this usurper to seize power via the sneaky tactic of getting the most votes.

Cardinal Rules

September 17, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

School mascots and team names are the subject of a discussion over at Sociological Images. Much of the discussion is about ethnic names – the Orientals, the Gauchos, etc. And of course all those variants on Native Americans (SocImages has more on them here),* which reminded me of my favorite story in this department.

At Stanford , since 1930 or so, teams had been the Indian. But in 1972, what with political correctness and all, the administration changed it to the Cardinals.

The alumni felt as though someone had flipped them the bird, and demanded that the Indian be reinstated. Being a democratic institution, the university put it to a referendum in 1975, and students voted on a ballot that included the Indians, the Cardinals, and several other choices including Sequoias, Trees, Railroaders, and Robber Barons.

And the winner is: the Robber Barons.

The administration felt that this was insulting to the dignity of their founder Leland Stanford (insulting, though accurate). So they ran another referendum, this time with Robber Barons removed from the ballot.

And the winner is: Robber Barons on a write-in campaign.

At which point the administration said to hell with it, it’s the Cardinal – the color, not the bird – though for some reason, the creature that cavorts on the field is mostly green, not red. Nor does it do much for the dignity thing.

* Montclair State underwent a similar transformation at about the same time. We had been the Indians. But we acquired some avian DNA and morphed into the Red Hawks.

Are Chefs the New Lawyers?

September 16, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

“What I’d really like to do,” Dave said, “ is quit, go to the CIA, and become a chef.” Dave is a real estate lawyer, and we were talking about his potato salad. The CIA he was referring to is the Culinary Institute of America, 90 miles up the Hudson River, not that other one.

Who’s cooking and who’s lawyering isn’t just a matter of individual desire. It’s also a matter of demand in the economy, and maybe Dave’s fantasy had something do with the dismal trough that commercial real estate had been in. But over the last several decades, both these occupations have grown.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The graphs, showing the percent of the work force in each occupation, are from Job Voyager. I’d known about BabyName Voyager and used it an a post. As with BabyName, these graphs use blue for men, pink for women.

The boom for lawyers and chefs still looked good in 2000 (I wish the voyage had continued into the 21st century, but this is as far as the data set goes), but the graph for college professors might just as well be the graph for leisure suits and disco balls.

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

The chart on the left shows all professors, but the hard sciences far outnumber the social sciences, which are shown separately on the right. In both charts, after the glory days of the 1970s, there’s a steep decline, steeper in the hard sciences than in the social sciences. But the social sciences curve does not rocket skyward in 1957 (remember Sputnik?) as the hard sciences do. I don’t know what accounts for the professorial bust that begins around 1980, but I’d guess that the baby boomers had something do with it as they aged out of their college years.


September 14, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Another year. Two hundred posts, which sounds like a lot even to me.

I’ve gone back and selected a sort of top ten. I’m leaving out the culture reviews – a Randy Newman concert, Billy Elliot, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Rachel Getting Married – even though I like them (and linked them, just in case anyone might be curious) . But most of the posts on the below are based on some quick and dirty data.

1. Godwin’s Law(“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”) seemed to apply more to the right than the left, so I counted (here). Since then, as you mght guess, the Obama-Hitler hits have doubled.

2. The whole anti-Obama movement struck me as an example fo what Joseph Gusfield called “status politics,” (here) and the Teabaggers and the rest look strikingly like the Temperance movement in Gusfield’s book, though this time around they’ve added gallons of personal vitriol.

3. and 4. The reaction to the Sotomayor nomination provided lots of sociologists with examples for their courses. Mine are here and here .

5. Crime and law enforcement came up, as in this post about racist outcomes without racist attitudes in the LAPD (here) .

6. After I posted on the decline in spouse killings, I found that there was more research on this than I had been aware of (too much and too inconclusive to summarize here).

7. Cop killings connected to drugs might not be all they’re made out to be in the media. But you’ll never convince Peter Moskos of it.

8. The media also got it wrong on clearance rates. A simple graph shows how the press turned good news into bad.

9. The press also found evidence that vouchers in primary education were working wonders. I had a different interpretation.

10. “Keynes from My Father” was just anecdotal evidence, and the allusion to Obama in the title was a bit much. But it’s a personal favorite, maybe because it comes from one of those intersections between what Mills calls biography and history. (The biography is more my father’s than mine.)

9-11 Counterfactual

September 12, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

“Remember how the whole country seemed united?” someone asked yesterday, referring to the months following Sept. 11, 2001 and implicitly comparing the mood of the country then to what we have now.

Yes, it seemed only natural that when we felt that the whole country was under attack from the outside, we would forget internal differences. But now I’m wondering about the counterfactual:

What if Obama had been elected in 2000, and it was Obama who had been in office nine months when the attacks occurred. How would the Republicans, those in office and those in the media – the Joe Wilsons, the Limbaughs and Coulters and Fox TV – as well as the birthers and other good citizens who have been showing up at town hall meetings, how would they have reacted?

Poverty, Income (and Virtue?)

September 11, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Here’s a brief follow-up to the previous post about changes in income and poverty. First the news.

And then the longer view.

(Click on the graph to see it larger.

It makes no sense to talk about these economic facts in terms of “virtue” as David Brooks likes to do. Virtue is nice. I’m all for it. But it has nothing to do with what’s going on in the economy. Those 2,600,000 people who fell into poverty in 2008 (and the data for 2009 will be still more grim) are no less virtuous than they were in 2007.

(HT: I got the Census Bureau graphs from Brad DeLong.)

David Brooks Doesn’t Get It

September 9, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

David Brooks’s persona, the character he plays in print and on TV, is the reasonable conservative – fair-minded, with ideas based in fact rather than ideology. He also likes to play the sociologist, offering broad pronouncements on society and culture. Especially culture.

Look at yesterday’s column, a puff piece for a new magazine, National Affairs, which he sees as the successor to The Public Interest. Brooks briefly summarizes the articles in the current issue.

Brooks loves virtue, which he usually subsumes under “culture” – the ideas people live by. But he ignores structure. He also forgets the basic insight of Sociology 101, week one – Durkheim: explanations of individual facts (like who gets ahead and who doesn’t) often aren’t much help in explaining social facts (like the overall degree of inequality and poverty in a society).

In explaining suicide at the individual level, sadness is a pretty useful concept. People who commit suicide are, no doubt, sadder than those who don’t. The surest way not to commit suicide is to be happy, not sad. But does knowing about these individual differences help us understand why the US has a rate of suicide nearly triple that of Greece? Are Americans three times as sad as Greeks? And within the US, are whites twice as sad as blacks?

Levels of income and degrees of inequality have as much to do with “virtue” as rates of suicide have to do with sadness.

From 2000 to 2007, median family income in the US fell by 5%. (Don’t look for the data on 2008 and 2009, when it comes out, to reverse this trend.) Can we conclude that Americans became more self-indulgent and irresponsible? That they threw away their degrees, broke up their families, and quit their jobs?

Since January 2008, over six million people in this country have lost their jobs. I guess the Bush administration wasn’t very good (and Obama, so far, no better) at “promoting virtuous behavior.”

Someone should suggest to David Brooks, that maybe, just maybe, when we consider income and inequality and unemployment at the national level, those individual–based explanations don’t help. It’s not a matter of culture or virtue. It’s the economy. Stupid.

Lone Star Litter . . . and Values

September 6, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

the brand consultant was consulting with me – i.e., he was picking up the cappuccino tab at Starbuck’s. He was about to start teaching a course called something like “Communications and Public Affairs,” and not being an academic (though he’s a really good teacher), he wanted some advice on the syllabus.

We finally got around to the idea that Messages about Issues had to be tailored for specific Audiences or Publics, particularly their Interests and Values. (Those capitalized words were possible major headings in the syllabus.)

I immediately thought of the example of Texas and litter. How could you convince Texans to be more respectful of public places and not toss all that crap out onto the roads they drove on? The Ladybird Johnson approach – “Highway Beautification”? Wrong audience. The people who were littering obviously didn’t care about highway beauty.

The guy you were trying to reach was Bubba, the classic red stater – fiercely individualistic, anti-government, macho. Bubba was also a slob, and probably proud of it. You couldn’t appeal to self-interest since it’s in Bubba’s self-interest to chuck his garbage out the window. Even hefty fines (and they are hefty) would work only if you could catch litterers often enough – unlikely on the Texas highways.

The best way in was Values. But how? “Don’t be a Litterbug, Keep Your Community Clean” would be too nice, too feminine or babyish, and, like “Pitch In” too collectivist. Instead, Roy Spence and Tim McClure at the Austin ad agency GSD&M had the Texas DOT go with chauvinism – Texas chauvinism. Spence and McClure were the ones who had distilled the target audience down to the Bubba stereotype, and the idea they played on to reach Bubba was not that littering was ugly or wrong or costly, but that it hurt Texas. And thus in 1985 was born one of the most famous and effective campaigns in the history of advertising.

With its double meaning of “mess,” it captured Bubba’s patriotism and pugnacity. The bumper stickers were soon everywhere. The TV ads featured famous proud Texans. One of the early ones (so early, I can’t find it on YouTube) featured Too-Tall Jones and Randy White, two of the toughest dudes on the Cowboys defense, picking up roadside trash.

JONES: You see the guy who threw this out the window, you tell him I got a message for him.

WHITE: (picks up a beer can): I got a message for him too.

OFF-CAMERA VOICE: What’s that?

WHITE: (Crushes the beer can with one fist). Well, I kinda need to see him to deliver it.

JONES: Don’t mess with Texas.
Litter in Texas has been reduced by 72%, the campaign is still going strong a quarter-century later, and McLure and Spence have a book about it. My source was Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers (no, jazzers, not those Heath brothers), Chip and Dan.

Torture and Masculinity - Anxiety on the Right

September 3, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

What’s with conservatives and their junk (junk in the current sense of male genitals)?

The Attorney General is looking into whether government employees – specifically CIA agents who tortured people – broke the law. Conservatives are outraged. It’s not just that conservatives think that torture is O.K. (not all torture, of course, just torture when we do it). It’s the imagery that bubbles up from their psyches.
“Emasculating US Intelligence.” (Headline on a blog at Commentary)

“Castrate the CIA, and Americans will die.” Ralph Peters in the the New York Post.
Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard on Fox TV fears that there won’t be a CIA agent left who’s able to pass his DNA to the next generation:

“They are emasculating the entire CIA.”

And of course, Charles Krauthammer:

“Panetta [head of the CIA] had his agency emasculated . . .”

These are just a few from the mainstream. If you searched blogosphere, you’d find lots more of them, anxiously lined up like soccer defenders on the free kick wall, their opposition to the attorney general being just one more example of their cojones-centered approach to legal interpretation and government policy.

I blogged about this a year ago (in what I thought was one of my better posts – here), after watching the Republican convention.
The Republicans seemed to view torture not just as a regrettable but necessary tactic. Torture became a romanticized test of toughness, the ultimate chapter in the Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche version of masculinity.

Their reactions further convince me that running just under the surface of the rational justifications for torture is the conservatives’ fear that if they reject torture, they will be less virile, less manly. They seem to have the fantasy that torturing and being tortured is a fraternity initiation – it tests a man and ultimately makes him a better person. They hold up John McCain as their exemplar.

It’s similar to the Dirty Harry fantasy about killing people. The reality of torture, as with killing, is far different from the movie and TV version. In many cases, for the victim, torture is permanently devastating. For the torturer, unless he has a bit of the psychopath in his character, it is permanently troubling.

(It’s tempting, when you actually see Fred Barnes and Krauthammer and the boys from Commentary, to make a psychoanalytic interpretation. I mean, they remind me of the wimpy brainiacs in high school who became the manager on the football team, tagging along and carrying the equipment for the muscular jocks they literally looked up to. Tempting, as I say, but I just don’t have enough information.)

Cop Killers – The UCR vs.The Wire

September 1, 2009
Posted by Jay Livingston

Is it OK for social scientists to use statistics in a misleading way when they write for the general public?

Peter Moskos is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. His Cop in the Hood is based partly on his work as a police officer in Baltimore. Here’s the lede from a piece he wrote in the Washington Post with Neill Franklin, also a former Baltimore cop.

They follow this with:
In many ways, Dante Arthur was lucky. He lived. Nationwide, a police officer dies on duty nearly every other day. [emphasis added]
Let’s see – 365 days a year. That makes nearly 180 such deaths each year.

I’ve been out of the crim biz for a while, but that number sounded high to me. So I went to the UCR. Sure enough, in 2007, 140 police officers died in the line of duty. As Moskos and Franklin say, nearly one every other day.

But 83 of those officers died in accidents, only 57 were homicide victims – one every 6 days. Still a lot. But how many of those were drug-related? The UCR has the answer:


Nor was 2007 unusual. In the decade ending 2007, 1300 police officers died on the job. About 550 of these were in felonies, not accidents. And of these, 27 were drug-related. Three a year is still too many, but it’s a far cry from one every other day.

Maybe I should have looked at a DVD of The Wire instead of the UCR.

Officer Arthur will not appear in this table of the UCR. It counts only deaths. So I looked at data on assaults on police officers. There were 59,000 non-fatal assaults on police officers, nearly a third of them in “disturbances,” i.e., fights (at home, in bars, etc.). Curiously, the UCR does not have a separate category for drugs in these tables. In the Arrest category, it has Robbery, Burglary, and Other, which must include drugs. In that Other category, 174 assaults were with guns.

Total Assaults 59,201
Disturbance 18,789
Other Arrest 8,935



Using the drugs/other ratio from the table on deaths (about 1/3), we get about 60 non-fatal shootings (like that of Officer Arthur) in 2007 – one tenth of one percent of all assaults on police officers.

Moskos and Franklin argue that federal laws should allow states to make the manufacture and distribution of drugs legal and regulated rather than criminal. The authors make several good arguments against current drug laws, which have created many problems that legalization might ameliorate. But I’m skeptical as to whether legalization would make much of a difference in police safety.