Police Problems and Policy
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The Power of Small, Flexible Teams

The Power of Small, Flexible Teams | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Ed Gilligan, president of American Express Company, describes how a small, cross-functional team launched Small Business Saturday in three weeks. 
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As you think about ways to modify police structures and incentives, you might consider this type of strategy.  Any solution implemented must have buy-in from all levels of the organization, so why not include them in the policy development phase?

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Police Problems and Policy
Examining the possibilities of abuse of power without the constraint of New Public Administration.
Curated by Rob Duke
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LAPD commander alleges retaliation after leak of agency's purchase of horse owned by chief's daughter

LAPD commander alleges retaliation after leak of agency's purchase of horse owned by chief's daughter | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
lapd commander sues dept claims chief out to get him over horse purchase leak
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Time to ensure police are trained to talk first

Time to ensure police are trained to talk first | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
“From the time the (police officer’s) car door opened ... it was less than eight seconds and Michael was shot twice and he never said a word to Michael and Michael never spoke,” Joanne told reporters.

Bill Yatim, Sammy’s father, said the report doesn’t give him a sense of closure or of justice.

“Not quite,” he said, but it’s a start.

“There are a lot of other things that need to change. It’s the culture that has to be changed.”

Dube’s report said cops too often use guns instead of words to calm situations where people in crisis, especially those who suffer from mental illness, are involved.

“Our investigation found that Ontario officers have plenty of training on how to use their guns, but not enough on how to use their mouths,” the report says.
Rob Duke's insight:
An ombudsman who never worked the street as a cop is not an advocate for all sides. Anyone who has worked the street as police officer would know that sometimes despite all you do, things go south quickly (not to mention that you rarely arrive on scene with all the facts--I've had the bad guy be on the other side of the street than where I was told--suddenly the guy is coming up from an unexpected area, which is pretty darn disconcerting!). Newsflash! some people want to die by the cops' hands (or guns). To teach cops to always talk first is to sacrifice cops needlessly. Teach cops to be ethical and reasonable.
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An Alternative to the Madness of Proving Police Injustice

An Alternative to the Madness of Proving Police Injustice | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
The Freddie Gray trials illustrate the inability of criminal prosecutions to halt police brutality.
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Here’s a better way to punish the police: Sue them for money

Here’s a better way to punish the police: Sue them for money | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Federal law makes it more difficult to hold an officer accountable for denying constitutional rights than for injuring by negligent conduct.
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Where are the alarm bells?

Where are the alarm bells? | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
My simple questions: Why are Fairbanks’ police officers currently so demoralized that they are choosing to pack up and leave city service? Where is the sense of alarm? Why is this not the leading topic of conversation amongst City Council representatives as we approach an upcoming mayoral election? The trend of active-duty, mid-career officers choosing to leave city service has been mirrored by an unprecedented wave of city department heads and staffers also choosing to leave under the current administration — six department heads at last count, along with a chief of staff, city clerk and executive assistant.
Rob Duke's insight:
It's not an easy balance to strike between a strong mayor and professional and independent police.  We went through an entire era where the Tammany Halls of the world controlled the police--and we had to have an entire Progressive Movement to stamp it out.  In this modern era of increase scrutiny of our police, how far do we intend to slide back?  The rumblings in the police business are that we are nearly there where you keep your job only if you toe the company line.  This isn't the way to control corruption!  You can't have some special interest supporting candidates and then the candidate gets to tell the entire government what to do.  It's a team sport that requires the participation of everyone from the ground up.  Even then, the public spirit can run amok and there is a place for the constraints placed on a profession by the wider civil society.  That's what we risk losing every time we slide back to rule by local politics....
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Police K-9 Fatally Shot, Man Killed in Standoff

Police K-9 Fatally Shot, Man Killed in Standoff | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
A police K-9 was fatally shot and a man was killed during a standoff in Long Beach on Tuesday, police said.
Rob Duke's insight:
...but for the dog, there goes a human officer.  We owe these animals a great debt.
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Shreveport police officer placed on leave

Shreveport Police Chief Willie Shaw placed a police officer on administrative Thursday morning following an allegation of possible policy violations, according to a press release.
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Cameras are Revealing the Truth, Which Is: Cops are Liars - Calibre Press

Cameras are Revealing the Truth, Which Is: Cops are Liars - Calibre Press | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
A couple of nights ago as I was surfing the news channels I heard various people of differing political views discussing how video is proving that police officers lie constantly. A story in the Chicago Tribune addressed this issue on its front page. On the net I found similar stories where the end results were chiefs and sheriffs firing officers because their accounts of the incidents didn’t exactly match what was seen on a video—even though the questioned use of force was legally and practically acceptable.

Of course, I could find no balance to these stories or the accompanying assertions. It’s now an incontrovertible truth: If the report doesn’t match what can be plainly seen on the video—the cop is obviously lying.

Because, as everyone knows, “seeing is believing.”

Is it?

Though relatively new as a field of research, much study has been done of late in the area of attention, memory, and recall. Problem is, most don’t know, don’t care, or maybe even don’t want to know about what’s being discovered.
Rob Duke's insight:
Case in point.  In my shootings, I don't remember any sound....does that mean that there wasn't any sound?  Hardly--more likely that my perceptions were distorted by the stress of the situation(s)....
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The Senate rejected new FBI surveillance powers—at least for now

The Senate rejected new FBI surveillance powers—at least for now | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
The amendment would have given the FBI the ability to to check citizens’ browsing history without a court order. 
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Video: Madison police arrest woman outside mall

Video: Madison police arrest woman outside mall | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Note: This video contains graphic content. A bystander shot the video of Madison police making a controversial arrest at a Madison shopping mall.
Rob Duke's insight:
Thoughts?  She was threatening to stab security at a mall and brandishing a knife.  Did the officers do the right thing?  What other use of force might they have been authorized to use and how does that compare with what you see here?
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Orion Hutchin's comment, June 26, 12:21 AM
I think the taser should have been used earlier in the altercation. The knees to the ribs and abdominals seem a little bit on the excessive side, however she did have a knife that can do considerable damage. I would also point out that the woman is a big part of the reason this video occurs, because she is fighting back. I do not believe these officers are going to use that kind of force on an individual that complies with officers.
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Old nemesis, the police, now secure safety for gay community

Old nemesis, the police, now secure safety for gay community | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Decades ago, an early morning raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York sparked violent protests among gay patrons who fought back after police burst in and tried to arrest them for daring to drink and dance with members of the same sex. Nearly 50 years later, officers armed with assault rifles stand guard outside the historic bar, protecting patrons after a gunman in Florida staged a massacre at a gay nightclub and spread fear of more attacks. At gay pride parades this weekend, that evolution will be on display in cities like Denver, where the first parade in 1975 was in response to police raids on gay bars and arrests of gay men. The persecution reflected views in society at large: [...] 1973, the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and it was only in 2003 that a Supreme Court ruling declared state sodomy laws to be an unconstitutional violation of personal privacy. In San Francisco, the police department has been shamed by the recent discovery of racist and homophobic text messages traded by officers. [...] a longstanding undercover police tactic in the Southern California city of Long Beach was dealt a blow last month when a judge dismissed lewd conduct and indecent exposure charges against a man arrested in a public bathroom. Numerous studies in the past six years have shown there is still a strong distrust of law enforcement, especially among LGBT people feeling bias, harassment or being assaulted by law enforcement, said Jeremy Goldbach, assistant professor at the University of Southern California School of Social Work. [...] in cities across the U.S., police officers who once were criticized for enforcing outdated laws are instead undergoing robust LGBT cultural sensitivity training. In Anchorage, Alaska, Police Chief Christopher Tolley will march in the city’s parade, and has ordered extra officers to be on scene, not because there’s been an identified threat but to show support for the LGBT community. [...] in Juneau, at a gay pride festival last weekend, a woman wearing a pride T-shirt asked a police officer if her shirt made her a target.
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Medical errors the third leading cause of death?

Medical errors the third leading cause of death? | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Even scarier, perhaps, is a new study in the latest edition of BMJ suggesting most medical errors go unobserved, at least in the official record.
In fact, the study, from doctors at Johns Hopkins, suggests medical errors may kill more people than lower respiratory diseases like emphysema and bronchitis do. That would make these medical mistakes the third leading cause of death in the United States. That would place medical errors right behind heart disease and cancer.
Through their analysis of four other studies examining death rate information, the doctors estimate there are at least 251,454 deaths due to medical errors annually in the United States. The authors believe the number is actually much higher, as home and nursing home deaths are not counted in that total.
Rob Duke's insight:
If we look to the medical field, they have a very open system, thus, even though law enforcement numbers and the numbers of doctors in many communities (at least the national average) (700,000 doctors vs. 765,000 sworn officers) are similar, doctors don't seem to get the same grief. Consider for instance that the police use lethal force a few thousand times a year, and kill about 1200 a year (1186 in 2015)--most of which are justified. Doctors, in contrast were directly linked to 251,454 people killed in medical mistakes per year. The medical field is highly regulated and relatively open to scrutiny (insurance companies for instance see everything), but the police are still shielded from most oversight....is this why people (and the media) whig out when the police kill and not when doctors do so?
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Interim Oakland Police Chief ousted, 2nd one this week

Interim Oakland Police Chief ousted, 2nd one this week | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
“I have informed the Mayor and City Administrator that cannot fulfill the functions of the Acting Chief of Police for the City of Oakland and I am stepping aside to take leave. When I return, I am exercising my right to return to Captain and I will continue to serve the Oakland Community, the Community I care deeply for. I thank the city for the opportunity and I am deeply sorry that I was unable to fulfill the functions of Acting Chief of Police.”

Sources tell KRON4 News Figueroa did not want his personal life put under a microscope as the Department goes through major upheaval.

The Command Staff is staying in place and will report to Landreth.

OPD does not currently have an interim chief and are looking for a person to fill the position.
Rob Duke's insight:
That's nice, but under California law, the police chief cannot be a non-sworn city administrator....surely they can find one retired chief who can act as the temp-chief....?  No city is that political--right?
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Report: Connecticut Police Use Stun Guns On Minorities At Higher Rate

Report: Connecticut Police Use Stun Guns On Minorities At Higher Rate | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
In cases where police pull stun guns, the report says officers also were more likely to fire them in confrontations involving minorities, as The Associated Press first reported in January after obtaining preliminary data collected from police departments around the state. Officers fired the weapons, as opposed to merely brandishing them, 60 percent of the time in confrontations involving whites, 81 percent of the time in those involving blacks and 66 percent of the time in those involving Hispanics.
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DASHCAM: Officer Shoots Suspect in Car - Calibre Press

DASHCAM: Officer Shoots Suspect in Car - Calibre Press | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Dramatic dash-cam video footage released by South Carolina authorities last week shows a police officer shouting at a teenage motorist — then firing seven times at the driver behind the wheel. The incident occurred in May after Antwon Gallmon, 17, allegedly fled from police after a late-night 911 caller described loud music coming from a …
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BOOK REVIEW: ‘The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe’

BOOK REVIEW: ‘The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe’ | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
In "The War on Cops," Heather Mac Donald provides overwhelming and compelling data to discount the misguided, misplaced and too often malice-based attacks on the law enforcement profession taking place in our country every day.
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Inside Police Psychology | Police Psychology | Crash and Burn

Inside Police Psychology | Police Psychology | Crash and Burn | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
When you have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), it is very much like being the driver in one of those simulators.  You can usually control the directions, but the magnitude of the response is often not connected to the action you thought you made.  Your emotions and feeling seem almost not linked to the events that are happening.  It weird when you go from calm to angry in a matter of seconds or you go from smiling to crying because someone got a “A” on their report card in a kid’s movie that your child was watching on the Disney channel.  There’s a name for all this, of course, us doctors give names for anything and everything.  But the name is not as important to understand as the problems this can cause, the fact that it is normal and how to get rid of it!
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The last days of the polymath

The last days of the polymath | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Carl Djerassi can remember the moment when he became a writer. It was 1993, he was a professor of chemistry at Stanford University in California and he had already written books about science and about his life as one of the inventors of the Pill. Now he wanted to write a literary novel about writers’ insecurities, with a central character loosely modelled on Norman Mailer, Philip Roth and Gore Vidal.
His wife, Diane Middlebrook, thought it was a ridiculous idea. She was also a professor—of literature. “She admired the fact that I was a scientist who also wrote,” Djerassi says. He remembers her telling him, “‘You’ve been writing about a world that writers know little about. You’re writing the real truth inside of almost a closed tribe. But there are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who know more about writing than you do. I advise you not to do this.’”
Even at 85, slight and snowy-haired, Djerassi is a det­ermined man. You sense his need to prove that he can, he will prevail. Sitting in his London flat, he leans forward to fix me with his hazel eyes. “I said, ‘ok. I’m not going to show it to you till I finish. And if I find a publisher then I’ll give it to you.’ ”
Eventually Djerassi got the bound galleys of his book. “We were leaving San Francisco for London for our usual summer and I said ‘Look, would you read this now?’ She said, ‘Sure, on the plane.’ So my wife sits next to me and of course I sit and look over. And I still remember, I had a Trollope, 700 pages long, and I couldn’t read anything because I wanted to see her expression.”
Diane Middlebrook died of cancer in 2007 and, as Djerassi speaks, her presence grows stronger. By the end it is as if there are three of us in the room. “She was always a fantastic reader,” he says. “She read fast and continuously. And suddenly you hear the snap of the book closing, like a thunder clap. And I looked at her, and she then looked at me.  She always used to call me, not ‘Carl’ or ‘Darling’, she used to call me ‘Chemist’ in a dear, affectionate sort of way. It was always ‘Chemist’. And she said, ‘Chemist, this is good’.”
Carl Djerassi is a polymath. Strictly speaking that means he is someone who knows a lot about a lot. But Djerassi also passes a sterner test: he can do a lot, too. As a chemist (synthesising cortisone and helping invent the Pill); an art collector (he assembled one of the world’s largest collections of works by Paul Klee); and an author (19 books and plays), he has accomplished more than enough for one lifetime.
His latest book, “Four Jews on Parnassus”, is an ima­gined series of debates between Theodor Adorno, Arnold Schönberg, Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem, which touches on art, music, philosophy and Jewish identity. In itself, the book is an exercise in polymathy. At a reading in the Austrian Cultural Forum in London this summer, complete with Schönberg’s songs and four actors, including Djerassi himself, it drew a good crowd and bewitched them for an hour and a half. Sitting down with the book the next day, I found it sharp, funny, mannered and dazzlingly erudite—sometimes, like a bumptious student, too erudite for its own good. I enjoy Djerassi’s writing, though not everyone will. But even his critics would admit that he really is more than “a scientist who writes”.

The word “polymath” teeters somewhere between Leo­nardo da Vinci and Stephen Fry. Embracing both one of history’s great intellects and a brainy actor, writer, director and TV personality, it is at once presumptuous and banal. Djerassi doesn’t want much to do with it. “Nowadays people that are called polymaths are dabblers—are dabblers in many different areas,” he says. “I aspire to be an intellectual polygamist. And I deliberately use that metaphor to provoke with its sexual allusion and to point out the real difference to me between polygamy and promiscuity."
“To me, promiscuity is a way of flitting around. Polygamy, serious polygamy, is where you have various marriages and each of them is important. And in the ideal polygamy I suspect there’s no number one wife and no number six wife. You have a deep connection with each person.”
Djerassi is right to be suspicious of flitting. We all know a gifted person who cannot stick at anything. In his book “Casanova: A Study in Self-Portraiture” Stefan Zweig describes an extreme case:
[Casanova] excelled in mathematics no less than in philosophy. He was a competent theologian, preaching his first sermon in a Venetian church when he was not yet 16 years old. As a violinist, he earned his daily bread for a whole year in the San Samuele theatre. When he was 18 he became doctor of laws at the University of Padua—though down to the present day the Casanovists are still disputing whether the degree was genuine or spurious...He was well informed in chemistry, medicine, history, philosophy, literature, and, above all, in the more lucrative (because perplexing) sciences of astrology and alchemy...As universal dilettante, indeed, he was perfect, knowing an incredible amount of all the arts and all the sciences; but he lacked one thing, and this lack made it impossible for him to become truly productive. He lacked will, resolution, patience.
Mindful of that sort of promiscuity, I asked my colleagues to suggest living polymaths of the polygamous sort—doers, not dabblers. One test I imposed was breadth. A scientist who composes operas and writes novels is more of a polymath than a novelist who can turn out a play or a painter who can sculpt. For Djerassi, influence is essential too. “It means that your polymath activities have passed a certain quality control that is exerted within each field by the competition. If they accept you at their level, then I think you have reached that state rather than just dabbling.” They mentioned a score of names—Djerassi was prominent among them. Others included Jared Diamond, Noam Chomsky, Umberto Eco, Brian Eno, Michael Frayn and Oliver Sacks.
It is an impressive list, by anyone’s standards. You can find scientists, writers, actors, artists—the whole range of human creativity. Even so, what struck me most strongly was how poorly today’s polymaths compare with the polymaths of the past.
In the first half of 1802 a physician and scientist called Thomas Young gave a series of 50 lectures at London’s new Royal Institution, arranged into subjects like “Mechanics” and “Hydro­dynamics”. By the end, says Young’s biographer Andrew Robinson, he had pretty much laid out the sum of scientific knowledge. Robinson called his book “The Last Man Who Knew Everything".
Young’s achievements are staggering. He smashed Newtonian orthodoxy by showing that light is a wave, not just a particle; he described how the eye can vary its focus; and he proposed the three-colour theory of vision. In materials science, engineers dealing with elasticity still talk about Young’s modulus; in linguistics, Young studied the grammar and voc­abulary of 400 or so languages and coined the term “Indo-European”; in Egyptology, Jean-François Champollion drew on his work to decode the Rosetta stone. Young even tinkered around with life insurance.
When Young was alive the world contained about a billion people. Few of them were literate and fewer still had the chance to experiment on the nature of light or to examine the Rosetta stone. Today the planet teems with 6.7 billion minds. Never have so many been taught to read and write and think, and then been free to choose what they would do with their lives. The electronic age has broken the shackles of knowledge. Never has it been easier to find something out, or to get someone to explain it to you.
Yet as human learning has flowered, the man or woman who does great things in many fields has become a rare species. Young was hardly Aristotle, but his capacity to do important work in such a range of fields startled his contemporaries and today seems quite bewildering. The dead cast a large shadow but, even allowing for that, the 21st century has no one to match Michelangelo, who was a poet as well as a sculptor, an architect and a painter. It has no Alexander von Humboldt, who towered over early-19th-century geography and science. And no Leibniz, who invented calculus at the same time as Newton and also wrote on technology, philosophy, biology, politics and just about everything else.
Although you may be able to think of a few living polymaths who rival the breadth of Young’s knowledge, not one of them beg­ins to rival the breadth of his achievements. Over the past 200 years the nature of intellectual endeavour has changed profoundly. The polymaths of old were one-brain universities. These days you count as a polymath if you excel at one thing and go on to write a decent book about another.
Young was just 29 when he gave his lectures at the Royal Institution. Back in the early 19th century you could grasp a field with a little reading and a ready wit. But the distinction between the dabbling and doing is more demanding these days, because breaking new ground is so much harder. There is so much further to trek through other researchers’ territory before you can find a patch of unploughed earth of your own.
Even the best scientists have to make that journey. Benjamin Jones, of the Kellogg School of Management near Chicago, looked at the careers of Nobel laureates. Slightly under half of them did their path-breaking work in their 30s, a smattering in their 20s—Einstein, at 26, was unusually precocious. Yet when the laureates of 1998 did their seminal research, they were typically six years older than the laureates of 1873 had been. It was the same with great inventors.
Once you have reached the vanguard, you have to work harder to stay there, especially in the sciences. So many scientists are publishing research in each specialism that merely to keep up with the reading is a full-time job. “The frontier of knowledge is getting longer,” says Professor Martin Rees, the president of the Royal Society, where Young was a leading light for over three decades. “It is impossible now for anyone to focus on more than one part at a time.”
Specialisation is hard on polymaths. Every moment devoted to one area is a moment less to give over to something else. Researchers are focused on narrower areas of work. In the sciences this means that you often need to put together a team to do anything useful. Most scientific papers have more than one author; papers in some disciplines have 20 or 30. Only a fool sets out to cure cancer, Rees says. You need to concentrate on some detail—while remembering the big question you are ultimately trying to answer. “These days”, he says, “no scientist makes a unique contribution.”
It is not only the explosion of knowledge that puts polymaths at a disadvantage, but also the vast increase in the number of specialists and experts in every field. This is because the learning that creates would-be polymaths creates monomaths too and in overwhelming numbers. If you have a multitude who give their lives to a specialism, their combined knowledge will drown out even a gifted generalist. And while the polymath tries to take possession of a second expertise in some distant discipline, his or her first expertise is being colonised by someone else.
The arts are more forgiving than the sciences. Rees is reminded of a remark by Peter Medawar, the zoologist, who pointed out that, after finishing a draft of “Siegfried” in 1857, Wagner was able to put the opera aside for 12 years before setting out to complete his Ring Cycle with “Götterdämmerung”. A scientist would have had to worry about a rival stealing his thunder. But nobody else was about to compose the destruction of Valhalla.
Perhaps that explains why would-be polymaths these days so often turn to writing books. Yet, as Richard Posner has discovered, even that is often enemy territory.
Unlike France, America and Britain don’t tend to encourage public intellectuals. But if they did, Richard Posner would be their standard-bearer. Posner’s day job is as an appeals-court judge in Chicago—a career founded upon his reputation as America’s pre-eminent thinker on anti-trust law. But Posner is not just a lawyer. In his spare time he has written on sex, security, politics, Hegel, Homeric society, medieval Iceland and a whole lot more. The Wall Street Journal once called him a “one-man think-tank”.
Posner thinks like a polymath. “I’m impatient and I’m restless,” he says, in a matter-of-fact way. “After I graduated from law school, I worked first in government for six years. I enjoyed it but I didn’t really want to make a career of that. I went into teaching without any great sense of commitment, but I couldn’t think of anything else. But gradually I lost int­erest, as the 1970s wore on, I became involved in consulting. So when the judgeship came along in 1981—quite out of the blue—I was happy to take that. I just kind of slid into law. It is sort of the default career choice in the United States.”
Posner first made his name as a monomath. “I had a very big intellectual commitment for many years to anti-trust law. I wrote a lot about that.” Eventually, though, the polymath rose to the surface and he put anti-trust behind him. “I just got bored with it, I think the field slowed down—it happens with fields,” he says. These days most people cling to their expertise; Posner talks about it as if he were trading in an old car.
After he became immersed in the intellectual life of the University of Chicago, Posner started to apply insights from economics to a broad range of subjects. In his book “Sex and Reason”, written in 1990, he used economics to explain a part of life that specialist lawyers and economists had tended to think was beyond their reach. To take a simple example, the AIDS epidemic made gay sex unavoidably more costly, either because of the risk of disease or of switching to safe sex. It therefore reduced the amount of gay sex—and, by the same mechanism, cut the number of illegitimate births and inc­reased the number of legitimate ones.
The book was a success because Posner had the field pretty much to himself. “Sometimes one goes into a new area and there hasn’t been much done in it and then you are a little ahead of the curve,” he says. Even then, the monomaths were in hot pursuit. “After a while there is so much in it that you don’t know what you’re going to do. Since 1990 the field has become extremely crowded because of specialisation and not very attractive.” Time to move on.
The monomaths do not only swarm over a specialism, they also play dirty. In each new area that Posner picks—policy or science—the experts start to erect barricades. “Even in relatively soft fields, specialists tend to develop a specialised vocabulary which creates barriers to entry,” Posner says with his economic hat pulled down over his head. “Specialists want to fend off the generalists. They may also want to convince themselves that what they are doing is really very difficult and challenging. One of the ways they do that is to develop what they regard a rigorous methodology—often mathematical.
“The specialist will always be able to nail the generalists by pointing out that they don’t use the vocabulary quite right and they make mistakes that an insider would never make. It’s a defence mechanism. They don’t like people invading their turf, especially outsiders criticising insiders. So if I make mistakes about this economic situation, it doesn’t really bother me tremendously. It’s not my field. I can make mistakes. On the other hand for me to be criticising someone whose whole career is committed to a particular outlook and method and so on, that is very painful.”
For a polymath, the charge of dabbling never lies far below the surface. “With the amount of information that’s around, if you really want to understand your topic thoroughly then, yes, you have to specialise,” says Chris Leek, the chairman of British Mensa, a club for people who score well on IQ tests. “And if you want to speak with authority, then it’s important to be seen to specialise.”
That is why modern institutions tend to exclude polymaths, he says. “It’s very hard to show yourself as a polymath in the current academic climate. If you’ve got someone interested in going across departments, spending part of the time in physics and part of the time elsewhere, their colleagues are going to kick them out. They’re not contributing fully to any single department. OK, every so often you’re going to get a huge benefit, but from day to day, where the universities are making appointments, they want the focus in one field.”
Britain goes out of its way to create monomaths, by asking students aged 15 to choose just three or four subjects to study at A-level. Djerassi thinks this is a mistake. “There’ll be students here at age 16 or 17 who are much better than many Americans at French or maths or something, but abysmally ignorant in another area,” he says. “We really preach intellectual monogamy more and more in this day and age. That’s by necessity, but we’re overdoing it. And what we really ought to do is start with intellectual polygamy.”
Djerassi has also suffered in his own work because of monomaths’ hostility, especially as a playwright. “They always keep crying out ‘the co-inventor, father, the mother of the Pill’,” he growls. “Without having any knowledge about the play, they start with it. As if it’s got anything to do with it.” Djerassi thinks that this means he has to work harder to promote his work. “No agent has ever been interested in me. They want 29-year-old Irish playwrights, not 86-year-old expatriates.” A trace of bitterness creeps into his voice, but he concedes: “If I were an agent I’d feel the same way.”
Overwhelmed by specialists and attacked by experts as dilettantes, it is amazing that there are any polymaths at all. How do they manage?
Alexander McCall Smith is a natural writer. “I just have to do it,” he says. “I suppose I write four novels a year now, which I don’t have to do. In one sense, that is breaking all the rules in publishing: you’re only meant to write one, but I write four, sometimes five. But I just feel that I have got to do it and I enjoy it greatly. I suppose I am very fortunate. The way I work is I go into a trance and write. I don’t have to sit there and think: it happens. It just comes, so I am very, very lucky.”
These days McCall Smith is best-known as the man behind “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”. But his first career, as a university professor, was eminent in its own right. “My interest was medical law. That, I suppose, was cross-disciplinary. You had to be able to understand the scientific issues and the medical issues, but you just had to have a sound lay understanding of them. So, for example, I worked as a member of the Human Genetics Commission for a while. And that meant I had to go off and make sure that I understood what the issues in genetics were.”
He is also musical—though in a dabbling way. “I play wind instruments, but I don’t play them very well,” he says. “My wife and I set up an orchestra, which is called the Really Terrible Orchestra, and indeed that is absolutely accurate. Virtually everybody I know is better at music than I am.”
McCall Smith is a polymath by necessity. He wrote while he was an academic, producing fiction, about 30 children’s books, short stories and plays for radio. He paid a price. “I probably would have made more of my academic career had I not had another interest, I think, yes. Academia requires a lot of commitment, so I suppose I could have done more.” But, speaking to him, I don’t think he had a choice.
Circumstance also played its part. McCall Smith was able to write because university life allowed it. “It would have been different had I been somebody who practised commercial law in a law firm, for instance. That wouldn’t be compatible with doing anything else. If you were a futures trader or something like that—there are some jobs where the pressure is so intense that it must be very difficult to have any energy by the time you come home at night.”
Posner could become a polymath because he has a unifying set of ideas. “A lot of this work is economic theory in new areas. So applying a method to a new field is not the same thing as mastering multiple fields. To achieve mastery in unrelated areas in an age of specialisation is exceedingly difficult. On the other hand, to take a technique that can be applied to a variety of substantive fields is not as difficult. So if I write about the economics of old age and the economics of sex and the economics of the national security and intelligence services, I am not mastering the field. I am not becoming a sociologist, or a psychiatrist or what have you.”
Djerassi could become a polymath because he has had two careers, one after the other—he did his science and, having made a fortune, he concentrated on his writing. He was helped by his wife. “She was a very sophisticated writer and an extremely tough critic and she managed to divorce affection from criticism. She thought ‘this is terrible’ or ‘this is clichéd’.” He also has ambition and the willpower of someone on borrowed time. At 62 he was diagnosed with cancer. “Suddenly, from one day to another, I didn’t even know what my life expectancy would be before I got the pathology back after the operation. And I remember being very depressed and afterwards I didn’t want to talk to anyone.” He said to himself, “‘Gee, now if I’d known five years earlier it would come out that I’d have cancer and be told I’d live for another few years, would I live a different life?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely’.”
Not all polymaths find their way. Andrew Robinson, Young’s biographer, gives the example of Michael Ventris, who died aged 34, having tried to satisfy both his urge to be an architect and also his fascination with codes. Ventris was the first to make sense of Linear B, an early Greek script, but he could not apply himself as successfully to architecture.
“With Michael Ventris, the polymathy gradually des­troyed him,” Robinson says. “He was famous for cracking Linear B, but I believe he was depressed. Architecture was not enough. He was a logician. Linear B took him over. He couldn’t reach the standard he had set in another field, he couldn’t do justice to his own gifts, he couldn’t let it all go and give it up.”
Robinson thinks that Young also ran up against his limits. “Young understood after 1814 that he couldn’t carry on with serious medicine. He could have pursued it but even then it was clear that he wouldn’t be taken seriously. People love a sole genius with tunnel vision—a focus,” Robinson says. Darwin spent several years thinking about barnacles. But because Young’s work was in so many different fields, he was accused of being a dilettante. “Polymaths are disconcerting,” Robinson says. “People feel they are trespassing.”
Even Leonardo warned against being spread thin. The other day Robinson came across one of his late notebooks, in which he had written, “Like a kingdom divided, which rushes to its doom, the mind that engages in subjects of too great variety becomes confused and weakened.”
In an age of specialists, does it matter that generalists no longer thrive? The world is hardly short of knowledge. Countless books are written, canvases painted and songs recorded. A torrent of research is pouring out. A new orthodoxy, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, sees obsessive focus as the key that unlocks genius.
Just knowing about a lot of things has never been easier. Never before have dabblers been so free to paddle along the shore and dip into the first rock pool that catches the eye. If you have an urge to take off your shoes and test the water, countless specialists are ready to hold your hand.
And yet you will never get very deep. Depth is for monomaths—which is why experts so often seem to miss what really matters. Specialisation has made the study of English so sterile that students lose much of the joy in reading great literature for its own sake. A generation of mathematically inclined economists neglected many of  Keynes’s insights about the Depression because he put them into words. For decades economists sweated over fiendish mathematical equations, only to be brought down to earth by the credit crunch: Keynes’s well-turned phrases had come back to life.
Part of my regret at the scarcity of polymaths is sentimental. Polymaths were the product of a particular time, when great learning was a mark of distinction and few people had money and leisure. Their moment has passed, like great houses or the horse-drawn carriage. The world may well be a better place for the specialisation that has come along instead. The pity is that progress has to come at a price. Civilisation has put up fences that people can no longer leap across; a certain type of mind is worth less. The choices modern life imposes are duller, more cramped.
The question is whether their loss has affected the course of human thought. Polymaths possess something that monomaths do not. Time and again, innovations come from a fresh eye or from another discipline. Most scientists devote their careers to solving the everyday problems in their specialism. Everyone knows what they are and it takes ingenuity and perseverance to crack them. But breakthroughs—the sort of idea that opens up whole sets of new problems—often come from other fields. The work in the early 20th century that showed how nerves work and, later, how DNA is structured originally came from a marriage of physics and biology. Today, Einstein’s old employer, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, is laid out especially so that different disciplines rub shoulders. I suspect that it is a poor substitute.
Isaiah Berlin once divided thinkers into two types. Foxes, he wrote, know many things; whereas hedgehogs know one big thing. The foxes used to roam free across the hills. Today the hedgehogs rule. 
Rob Duke's insight:
In Justice we must also be Polymaths.  This article was very interesting to me.  I hope you find it so....
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North Dakota drug informant's family sues for wrongful death

North Dakota drug informant's family sues for wrongful death | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The family of a North Dakota college student who was a confidential informant for a drug task force filed a wrongful death lawsuit Monday accusing a sheriff's department, a deputy and the county of failing to ensure the 20-year-old's safety. The body of Andrew Sadek was found exactly two years ago in the Red River, which separates North Dakota from Minnesota, not far from where he attended college in Wahpeton. An autopsy concluded Sadek died of a gunshot wound to the head but the manner of death was "undetermined," according to the complaint brought by John and Tammy Sadek. Their suit names as defendants Richland County Sheriff's deputy Jason Weber, who was part of the task force, as well as the county. It says the defendants failed to train Andrew Sadek to perform undercover operations and failed to "reasonably supervise" him. "We filed the lawsuit today, two years from the day Andrew's body was discovered, hoping to achieve accountability for those who put Andrew in harm's way," said Tim O'Keeffe, one of two Fargo attorneys for the Sadek family. A spokeswoman for the North Dakota attorney general's office did not return email messages Monday seeking comment. The Sadeks are asking for unspecified economic damages, including the cost of the memorial, and non-economic damages related to mental anguish, emotional distress, grief and loss of companionship. A report by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation said Sadek got in trouble with the law in April 2013, when he twice sold marijuana to a confidential informant. Both transactions were small — $20 and $60 worth of drugs — but they took place in a school zone, making the potential charges against him serious felonies. Later that year, drug task force agents searched Sadek's dorm room and said they found a grinder containing marijuana residue. The next day, Sadek completed paperwork to become a confidential informant, making three drug buys for the regional task force over the next three months. The task force didn't hear from Sadek after that. The family does not believe Sadek killed himself. A backpack full of rocks was tied around Sadek's body and he was wearing different clothes from the time he was last seen, the suit said. Lawyers for the family sent a letter to federal authorities in April asking the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI to investigate the case. The Justice Department said it was reviewing the case. There was no response from the FBI, the family's lawyers said.
Rob Duke's insight:
It will be interesting to see what "duty of care" the courts assign to the police in using informants.  In my experience, they're either young, naive, or have their own agenda.  Having said that when we protect private spaces (as we should), we must use informants to go after the crimes committed there....
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Police commissioner calls Baltimore police union's tweets 'inappropriate, insensitive'

Police commissioner calls Baltimore police union's tweets 'inappropriate, insensitive' | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Police Commissioner Kevin Davis issued a statement Saturday denouncing the city’s police union for a series of posts on social media overnight.

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police lodge took to Twitter on Friday night and posted a photo of actor Leonardo DiCaprio making a toast, with overlain text saying, “Here’s to the Baltimore 6 defense team, the FOP and Detective Taylor.” The FOP also posted a tweet Saturday morning with an image of City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby with the text, “The Wolf That Lurks.” That image was first used as a cover of a New York police union magazine last October.

The posts come in the days after a Baltimore judge acquitted the police officer facing the most serious charges in the death of Freddie Gray, delivering a broad rebuke of a case that he said lacked evidence.
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How BART police will keep riders from hogging 2 seats

How BART police will keep riders from hogging 2 seats | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
Starting this fall, BART riders who fail to contain themselves and their belongings to a single seat during the most crowded times of day may be questioned by police and have their names recorded and criminal records checked.
BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey explained Thursday how his officers will enforce the one-person, one-seat law that the transit agency’s board adopted in April. The goals, he said, are being fair to riders on crowded trains while protecting BART from complaints about profiling or harassment from those whom police question.
Rob Duke's insight:
A variation of the zero-tolerance idea that successfully cleaned up the Boston trains and NY (both under Bill Bratton)...
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Freddie Gray case: Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. not guilty on all charges

Freddie Gray case: Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. not guilty on all charges | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
A Baltimore judge is expected to issue a verdict in the second-degree murder trial of police Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr. on Thursday morning.
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Lydia Weiss's comment, June 24, 2:18 AM
I'm not sure I agree that he should be found not guilty, but unfortunately if the evidence is not there according to the judge, there's only so much that can be done. While I'm not saying this is enough to incite another riot, I can't help but wonder if it will.
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Alaska appeals court challenges police searches

Alaska appeals court challenges police searches | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Court of Appeals is asking the state's highest court to re-examine rules regarding police searches after throwing out a conviction for a Fairbanks man
Rob Duke's insight:
Alaska law is more restrictive than Federal Law.  See Chimel vs. California, which established the "arm's reach rule".  If a suspect could reasonably reach a spot to hide something, it ought to be searchable incident to arrest.
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Lydia Weiss's comment, June 24, 2:21 AM
I don't think the conviction should have been thrown out. The ashtray sounds like it was in plain sight, and I thought that searches were legal with probable cause, which it sounds like they had. I'd have to do more research before I can say if I fully support changing the rule though.
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Six people have died in clashes between Mexican police and teachers

The teachers had been demonstrating against the arrests of their union leaders.
Rob Duke's insight:
A contrast with how American police handle protests--is it not?
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50 Years After Watts Riots, Cops and Community Leaders Heal Old Wounds

50 Years After Watts Riots, Cops and Community Leaders Heal Old Wounds | Police Problems and Policy | Scoop.it
A rare partnership between cops and residents has begun to dissolve the chronic hostility that has plagued L.A.'s Watts district since its 1965 riots.
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Lydia Weiss's comment, June 24, 2:15 AM
I think it was really noble for the Sergeant to apologize and lead a prayer at the beginning like that. Seems to be a gesture that was hoped to help connect the groups. I do like the strategy of them working together like that, do you think this is something that could be used in the future in other locations?