John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

What playfulness can do for you


Self-trust is the essence of heroism.

All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen.

Truth is the property of no individual but is the treasure of all men.

Truth is the summit of being; justice is the applicati0n of it to affairs.

Truth is beautiful without doubt; but so are lies.

“Begin by learning to draw and paint like the old masters. After that, you can do as you like; everyone will respect you.” Salvador Dalí

WHY THE WORLD NEEDS EDITORS.....................


What playfulness can do for you

By Leon Neyfakh

THE ADULT HUMAN is a serious animal: a worker, a thinker, a problem solver. He or she strives for focus and efficiency, resisting frivolity in the name of being a grown-up and staying on task.
OK, so maybe that’s not always true. If it were, there probably wouldn’t be Ping-Pong tables popping up in America’s trendiest office buildings or karaoke nights in downtown Boston. And there probably wouldn’t be so many funny dog videos on Facebook or such a premium placed in social situations on making other people laugh.
The fact is, even the most responsible adults occasionally indulge in what can only be described as playfulness: pursuing delight in all its forms, engaging in friendly, low-stakes competition, and investing precious resources in amusing themselves and others. While it’s easy enough to say from personal experience that we do this stuff because it’s fun, scientists who specialize in the psychology of play have only recently started getting a grip on what it is that makes otherwise self-possessed, mature adults inclined toward fooling around and being silly—and what long-term benefits they get out of it.
“Adults are playful—that’s a fact,” said René Proyer, a psychologist at the University of Zurich who has written more than a dozen papers on adult playfulness over the past three years. “[But] psychologists haven’t thought much about this, probably because it wasn’t deemed worthy enough.”
What Proyer and the other researchers who have recently moved to fill that gap are discovering is that playfulness, as a personality trait, is not only complex but consequential. People who exhibit high levels of playfulness—those who are predisposed to being spontaneous, outgoing, creative, fun-loving, and lighthearted—appear to be better at coping with stress, more likely to report leading active lifestyles, and more likely to succeed academically. According to a group of researchers at Pennsylvania State University, playfulness makes both men and women more attractive to the opposite sex.
But wait: Before you run to the store to buy a yo-yo and a pair of roller skates in hopes of nailing your next exam or upping your romantic game, you should know that the whole endeavor of researching playfulness in adults involves a conundrum. As British researchers Patrick Bateson and Paul Martin argue in their 2013 book, “Play, Playfulness, Creativity and Innovation,” it’s crucial to distinguish between engaging in behavior that is technically play—battling it out in an intense game of tennis, for instance, or wasting time on an addictive iPhone game—and doing it in a way that is actually playful, which for Bateson and Martin means “cheerful, frisky, frolicsome, good-natured, joyous, merry, rollicking, spirited, sprightly [and/or] vivacious.” An important challenge facing researchers in this field is figuring out how to isolate and define playfulness as an internal state of mind rather than a mere description of how someone is acting.
“Playfulness is something even laypeople can recognize when they see it,” said Xiangyou Sharon Shen, a research consultant with a PhD in leisure studies from Penn State who has developed a psychological instrument to determine a person’s predisposition toward playfulness. “But playfulness research is still in its infancy, in that there’s a lot of confusion and disagreement surrounding what playfulness even is, and how to measure it.”
The high-playfulness test subjects actively enjoyed being in the boring room, even though camera footage showed they didn’t do anything but sit still.
 It might seem ironic, even counterproductive, to try to nail down and analyze something as ineffable as “playfulness” as though it were a dead insect on a pin. But as researchers learn more about how it fits into the structure of human personality, it raises the hope that we can not only define playfulness scientifically, but actually teach ourselves to incorporate it into our lives, long after we’ve put our toys away.
THE SUBJECT OF PLAY has attracted the interest of some of history’s great minds, including Charles Darwin, who was curious about the mechanics of tickling, and Sigmund Freud, who wrote about the role of play in emotional development. With few exceptions, however, psychologists interested in play have focused on children rather than adults. Over the years, a wealth of research has suggested that child’s play is an important part of growing up—that, among other things, it helps kids “practice” for the real world by prompting them to solve problems and deal with emotions they might encounter later in life.
Playfulness in adults did not become a significant area of research until recently—perhaps because play tends to become less central as people get older. “I think it just didn’t seem as respectable as other things, which is too bad,” said Scott Eberle, the editor of the American Journal of Play. “The grave and the serious seem more important than the way we find levity in our lives.”
One of the first researchers to break with this tradition was Mary Ann Glynn, now a professor at Boston College, who, along with her coauthor Jane Webster, published a paper in the early 1990s that described adult playfulness as “a predisposition to define and engage in activities in a nonserious or fanciful manner to increase enjoyment.” Based on a series of lab experiments and surveys, Glynn and Webster concluded that playfulness in adults was linked to “innovative attitudes” and “intrinsic motivational orientation,” meaning playful people were more likely to do things without regard for their practical purpose. The researchers also found that when study participants were asked to compose sentences using a specific set of words and told to treat the task as work, they exhibited less creativity and figurative thinking than people who were primed to approach the exact same task as play.
Glynn didn’t end up staying in the adult playfulness lane for long; she now studies innovation in large organizations. But in the past decade or so, a crop of researchers, including Proyer and Shen, have begun chipping away at the subject again with new rigor. There are now four separate psychological “scales” designed to measure people’s inclination toward playful thinking and behavior. Multiple conferences have been held to discuss the value of play in the past several years. There is even a 10-hour documentary TV series being developed called “Now Playing,” about “the vital importance of play to our happiness, well-being, and the future of life.”
According to Proyer, part of the reason for the recent boomlet in adult-playfulness research is the concurrent rise of positive psychology and its premise that it’s just as useful to understand happiness and well-being as sadness and dysfunction. The research on adult playfulness is still in its early stages, Proyer said. “Honestly speaking, psychology is way behind reality here,” he said. “Because if you look at the entertainment industry—if you look at some of the computer games that they sell...they are directed at adults. You have amusement parks where you have some of these rides that children aren’t even allowed to go on.”
One of the most interesting findings Proyer has generated so far is that playful people perform better academically—a discovery he made after conducting a study on his own students over the course of a semester. “The more playful the students were, the better the grades were,” he said. (He pointed out that the course in question was extremely challenging and technical, not one where being particularly playful would confer an obvious advantage the way it would in, say, clown college.)
Another intriguing finding, reported by University of Illinois associate professor and playfulness expert Lynn A. Barnett, is that playful people are less likely to encounter stress in their lives, and that when they do, they’re better at coping with it. “People who are playful don’t run away from stress, they deal with it—they don’t do avoidance,” Barnett said.
In a separate study, Barnett found that people who scored high on her playfulness test were much better at entertaining themselves when forced to sit in an empty, boring room than people who didn’t. “The low-playfulness people hated it. They couldn’t wait to get out of there,” said Barnett. The high-playfulness test subjects, on the other hand, actively enjoyed being in the boring room, even though surveillance camera footage showed that they didn’t do anything but sit still while they were in there. “They were just in their heads—they entertained themselves.,” she said.
Another study, coauthored by Penn State professor Garry Chick, found that when asked about qualities they looked for in potential romantic partners, participants said they preferred playful people. Chick theorizes that this has evolutionary roots: Playfulness makes men seem less threatening to women, and women seem younger to men—and thus more fertile. A separate study conducted at Penn State, this one focused on the elderly, showed that playfulness in later life is associated with better cognitive and emotional functioning.
In the future, said Proyer, we can look forward to the results of studies, already underway, about the role playfulness plays in happy romantic relationships, and the possibility of a perfect ratio of playful to not-playful people when it comes to groups working together in a professional capacity.
IT’S CLEAR THAT playful people have a better time. But are you stuck with the level of playfulness that comes naturally to you, or is it something you can knowingly cultivate? “It’s the 64 million dollar question,” said Barnett, noting that the one relevant study she’s aware of, in which researchers tried to train children to become better at pretend-play, ended in failure.
Most researchers in the field seem optimistic, though. Pat Bateson, for one, says playfulness should be seen not as a fixed trait but rather as a mood that some people are more likely to express than others. That being the case, he wrote in an e-mail, he hopes that “non-playful people can be encouraged to become more playful.”
Even those researchers who do think of playfulness as a personality trait—a way of being in the world that persists over time and across situations—suspect it’s a malleable one, which people can develop in themselves if they want to. To test this hypothesis, Proyer is working on what he calls a series of “intervention” programs designed to help people become more playful.
There is an obvious irony hanging over the entire field, and one its researchers are aware of. The minute you identify “play” as something that matters because it’s useful, it stops being play. As Anthony Pellegrini, an education psychologist and author of the 2009 book “The Role of Play in Human Development,” put it, “What play is—and this is a crucial distinction, especially when you get to adults—is an a orientation where the means are more important than the ends, where you’re much more concerned with the process than the result.” For example, a person who goes swimming during lunch every day to enjoy himself, like Pellegrini does, may be doing something playful. A swimmer in the next lane over who’s there to lose weight or train for an important race may not be.
That might make it seem self-defeating to try to become more playful: If people engage in such behavior for a pragmatic reason, it might not really be play at all. According to Barnett, this is what’s tricky about actively making use of the findings that she and others in her field have generated: “If you’re self-monitoring, that’s going to get in the way of being playful,” she said. “A lot of playfulness is spontaneity, unpredictability, just being adventurous. As soon as you employ your more rational cognitive faculties, I think you’re interfering with it.”
That doesn’t mean that adults—even the most goal-oriented among us—can’t ever be truly playful in the way we used to be as children. It just means we need to allow ourselves to indulge in the pleasures of pointless or sheerly enjoyable activity, whether that means board games, dancing, pulling pranks, or making other people laugh. Growing up, in other words, doesn’t have to mean cutting fun and lightheartedness out of our lives. On the contrary, it may mean realizing that engaging in such childishness is an excellent use of our time.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. E-mail leon.neyfakh@globe.com.


As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.
Visit our Shakespeare Blog at the address below

Anyone can practice some nonviolence, even soldiers. Some army generals, for example, conduct their operations in ways that avoid killing innocent people; this is a kind of nonviolence.  Thích Nht Hnh

What most people call loving consists of picking out a woman and marrying her. They pick her out, I swear, I’ve seen them. As if you could pick in love, as if it were not a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you staked out in the middle of the courtyard. They probably say that they pick her out because-they-love-her, I think it’s just the siteoppo. Beatrice wasn’t picked out, Juliet wasn’t picked out. You don’t pick out the rain that soaks you to a skin when you come out of a concert. Julio Cortázar

It’s often just enough to be with someone. I don’t need to touch them. Not even talk. A feeling passes between you both. You’re not alone. Marilyn Monroe

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. Rainer Maria Rilke

We must get beyond passions, like a great work of art. In such miraculous harmony. We should learn to love each other so much to live outside of time… detached. Federico Fellini

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings. Anaïs Nin

NYCPlaywrights October 3, 2015

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Associate Lighting Designer

Associate Lighting Designer Caroline Chao takes care of all the details for a lighting designer, including handling the production schedule, helping to draft the lighting plot, and keeping track of…
Added on 10/28/13
Greetings NYCPlaywrights


The Fools & Kings Project
Athens Square Park Astoria Queens
Summit Rock, Central Park West Manhattan

"Julius Caesar" runs through Sunday, October 11th. 
Below are all of the dates and locations for the performances.

Saturday, October 3rd @ 4:30pm at Summit Rock
Sunday, October 4th @ 4:30pm at Summit Rock
Saturday, October 10th @ 4:30pm at Athens Square Park
Sunday, October 11th @ 4:30pm at Athens Square Park

The Fools & Kings Project aims to produce Shakespeare's plays with a focus on character development. By delving thoroughly into the text, we use the language as a map to create engaging & timeless concepts with simple - but compelling - design.  We are proud to be presenting our third show of this season, an all-female "Julius Caesar".  Directed by Kristen Penner, Fight Direction by Jason Paul Tate, and Stage Management by Liza Penney.

The show boasts an ensemble cast of just 10 actors in a fast-paced, raw, 90 minute adaptation of the script. Featuring Nikita Chaudhry, Katya Collazo, Kisky Holwerda, Lorelei Mackenzie, Melissa Meli, Shannon Paul, Zoey J. Rutherford, Callan Suozzi-Rearic, Courtney A. Vinson, and Vanessa Wendt.

All performances run approx. 90 minutes without intermission and are free to the public.
Athens Square Park is located at 30th Ave & 30th St in Astoria - just one block away from the 30th Ave stop on the N/Q train.
Summit Rock is located just inside the 81st St & Central Park West entrance to Central Park.
More information

Promotional art:


Venus/Adonis Theater Festival 2016 ~ Our Eighth Festival Season

Acknowledgement in the form of excellent prizes: $2,500 for Best Play and $500 each for Best Actress, Actor and Director, as well as $300 for Best Musical and $200 for Best Original Play. This is more than any other U.S. festival that we know of. 

There is no question why Venus/Adonis has taken the world of playwriting festivals by storm, becoming the second largest festival in the country in just 4 years.
 It's because playwrights enjoy staging their plays with us! 

We are a group of playwrights who, after years of staging our plays in NYC festivals, said: "Why don't we create a festival that includes everything we dreamt of having while being part of others? "

The result is beyond our wildest expectations. In just a few years, Venus/Adonis has caught fire as the number of submissions we receive continues to grow every year. 

Is this sheer luck or an acknowledgment of what we offer?

 Let's find out at: http://venusnytheaterfestival.com/


Women's Project Theater Lab Application
WP Theater is looking for 15 female-identified playwrights, directors, and producers who crave an artistic home, professional support, and the resources to launch them into the next phase of their careers to join the 2016-2018 WP Lab.
Lab provides up to fifteen artists with community, a vital professional network, entrepreneurial and leadership training, free rehearsal space and, most significantly, tangible opportunities for the development and production of bold new work for the stage.

Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) is pleased to announce that we are now accepting submissions for our 2016 New Voices Play Festival! This festival is an opportunity for up¬ and¬ coming or accomplished playwrights to submit their work which, upon selection, will be produced on the mainstage at GVT, the State Professional Theatre of West Virginia. The performance of these plays is an invaluable tool for playwrights to workshop what’s working in the play and what may need revision. The New Voices Play Festival has become a popular event among our patrons who are eager to enjoy these new works.

● Plays must be 5¬ to 10 ¬minute one ¬act plays.
● Playwrights may submit up to two works for consideration.
● Plays must be unpublished and must not have had a full professional production.
● The subject matter of submitted plays is open; however, excessively strong language is discouraged.

Premiere Stages is committed to supporting emerging and regional playwrights by developing and producing new plays. Through our Play Festival script competition, Premiere Stages offers developmental opportunities to four playwrights. We provide playwrights with an encouraging and focused environment in which they can develop their work through discussions, rehearsals, sit-down readings, staged readings, and full Equity productions.
Premiere Stages will accept submissions of unproduced new plays from playwrights born or currently residing in the greater metropolitan area (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania). There is no fee to enter. All plays submitted to the festival are evaluated by a professional panel of theatre producers, dramaturgs, playwrights, scholars and publishers. e presented in one evening, so plays that have minimal tech and set requirements are preferred.

*** FOR MORE INFORMATION on these and other opportunities see the web site athttp://www.nycplaywrights.org ***


Stage lighting is the craft of lighting as it applies to the production of theatre, dance, opera and other performance arts.[1] Several different types of stage lighting instruments are used in this discipline.[2] In addition to basic lighting, modern stage lighting can also include special effects, such as lasers and fog machines. People who work on stage lighting are commonly referred to as lighting technicians.



American Association of Community Theater
The Lighting Designer’s Job

At its most basic, stage lighting functions to make the actors and their environs visible to the audience. But it can also be used to:
•           Evoke the appropriate mood
•           Indicate time of day and location
•           Shift emphasis from one stage area to another
•           Reinforce the style of the production
•           Make objects on stage appear flat or three dimensional
•           Blend the visual elements on stage into a unified whole

The Designer's work

The lighting designer begins by reading the script to be produced noting the type of light it calls for in each scene. Designer and director share their ideas about how light could be used to enhance the production concept at their first meeting. Early meetings with the set designer are also important because the set and lighting designers must collaborate on how to achieve the desired "look" for the play. The plan for the set may influence the placement and direction of the necessary lighting instruments, so flagging any potential problems in this area as early as possible makes sense.

Lighting designers attend rehearsals to get a feel for the lighting cues and to plan how to light the actors as they move from place to place on stage. When the blocking is set, the lighting designer can start to work out which lighting instruments will be used and where each one will be located.



How to Work with a Lighting Designer

by Jeffrey E. Salzberg

Many people think the lighting design is created in the technical rehearsal. This is not so. Others see the myriad pieces of arcane drawings and paperwork which surround the professional designer and think that they constitute the design. Again, not so. The lighting design is created in the designer's head over the course of several weeks before the production loads into the theater. The technical rehearsal is when the design is realized. The various pieces of paper serve as road maps to further us on our journey. This is why designers find it frustrating when choreographers turn to us during technical rehearsals and say things such as, "Oh, I wanted this section to be blue." The subtext of that (which the choreographer may not even realize but which the lighting designer most certainly does) is, "The time you've already spent working on this dance means nothing to me." The choreographer certainly has the right to have that particular section be blue, but it would have been more respectful of the designer's time -- and art -- for that information to have been shared earlier.
How much time have I already spent on the dance by that point? I've watched it, either live or on video at least three times -- usually 5-6 times. I've analyzed the movement in terms of focus, mood, and tempo. I've spent an hour or more (depending on the length, complexity, and overall nature of the dance) transcribing notes and writing cues. I've spent a total of 4-8 hours drafting the light plot and preparing the associated paperwork. The stagehands have spent 4-8 hours (sometimes much, much more) hanging the show and I've spent several hours working with them to focus each fixture
When I begin working on a dance, I first watch it one or two times to get the general "feel" of it. I rarely take any notes at this point; the idea is to get an overview of the work. After this, now that I have a frame of reference, I like to talk to the choreographer and get her or his ideas (more on this later). I then begin to take detailed notes on movement and music, watching the dance two or three more times.
In most cases, by this point I have not yet written a single light cue. I then watch the dance several more times, first taking general lighting notes and progressively getting more detailed. At this point, I have several pages of notes, none of which are in any form that a stage electrician could use to realize the design in the theater; in other words, I have a lighting design, but not in a usable format. After I've watched and made my decisions for each dance on the program, I must draft the light plot (the drawing which tells the stagehands which lights go where) and prepare the various documents which contain explanatory detail.



CADD Drawings of NYC Area Theaters by Jeffrey E. Salzburg
These drawings are provided as a free service to the theatrical community. No guarantee of accuracy is either stated or implied. If you wish to contribute drawings to this library, many blessings will rain down upon your head. Please send as a DXF or DWG file to: jeff@jeffsalzberg.com. All contributions will receive appropriate on-screen credit.



Stage Lighting for Students
Jeffrey E. Salzburg with Judy Kupferman

It is important to remember that, although stage lighting may rely more heavily on technology than do most genres, it is no less an art than are singing, acting, and dancing. The lighting designer — like the choreographer, director, and actor — is an artist.
There is a tendency to become bogged down in the technology — to concentrate on that aspect rather than on the art. This is the equivalent of an architect's fixating on the wood and brick rather than on the overall appearance of the building.
Any designer who doesn't admit that her/his designs have on occasion been saved by good technicians is probably either very new to professional theatre, or lying. Being a technician is an honorable and admirable vocation, but there's a difference between designers and technicians. The technician is in no way "below" the designer; the two positions are equal in importance, but they are not the same. One person may well be both, but not necessarily so.
You should always remember that the designer is primarily an artist, and you should be kind enough to help your colleagues who are actors, dancers, musicians, and directors to remember it, also.


A LIFE IN THE THEATRE: Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner Talks About 30 Years in the Business

Kenneth Posner, the prolific lighting designer who received three Tony nominations for the 2012-13 season, talks about 30 years in the industry.
"I discovered theatre at a young age, as a mechanism, frankly, to escape," Posner said. He was seven years old. His parents, who were immersing him in theatre, had just divorced. His mother created costumes for community stage groups in Westchester County, New York, where he grew up.
"She brought me and my brother along to the warmth and safety of these companies. I became involved in this world of storytelling, of creativity and expression. I never chose to leave it. I developed a passion for theatre, for telling stories in a proscenium arch."



Lighting Designer Time Line: 1877 -

1877- Brigham introduces Gel (color media) to the theatre world
1878- Joseph Swan "invents" the incandescent lamp
1879- Thomas Edison "invents" the incandescent lamp
1881- London's Savoy Theatre installs the first theatrical electrical lighting system

1899- Appia's Music and Staging is published

1900- Lamp dip is introduced to color the bulbs used in the border and foot lights
1903- Kliegl Brothers installs a 96 dimmer stage lighting system at the Metropolitan Opera House
1904- Louis Hartmann uses a "baby len" in Belasco's The Music Teacher
1908- Maude Adams installs a 2' deep by 32' wide light bridge in Charles Frohman's Empire Theatre.
1908- RoscoGel is introduced

1915-Robert Edmond Jones designs The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife
1916- Norman Bel Geddes builds a 1000 watt Spotlight from a carbon arc lens box.
1916- Bel Geddes lights the Little Theatre of Los Angles entirely with 1000 watt Spotlights.
1918- Jones and Bel Geddes work together at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee



American Theatre Wing
Associate Lighting Designer

Associate Lighting Designer Caroline Chao takes care of all the details for a lighting designer, including handling the production schedule, helping to draft the lighting plot, and keeping track of notes, follow spots, and the cue list. She takes us through her role in the production process, and points out the advantages of being a lighting associate and assistant. Chao has worked on multiple shows at once with lighting designer Don Holder, and is seen here teching Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.


Meet a Lighting Designer
Lucy Birkinshaw has completed a Bachelor of Arts (Curtin University) and an Advanced Diploma in Lighting Design (WAAPA). She has worked extensively in the industry as a Lighting Designer, Head Electrician, Lighting Programmer and Production Manager. Lucy is a founding partner of Filament Design Group, a creative and technical project management team producing theatrical, concert and corporate events.


MIT Open Courseware
Lighting Design for the Theatre

This class explores the artistry of Lighting Design. Students gain an overall technical working knowledge of the tools of the trade, and learn how, and where to apply them to a final design. However essential technical expertise is, the class stresses the artistic, conceptual, collaborative side of the craft. The class format is a "hands on" approach, with a good portion of class time spent in a theatre.



Extradite: to send (one who has been accused of a crime) to another state or country for trial. Some countries have a tradition of extradition—a fact which might concern criminals. Likely of significantly less concern to most criminals is the fact that extradition and tradition are related; both come from the Latin verb tradere, which means "to hand over." (Think of a tradition as something handed over from one generation to the next.) Some other words that have been handed down from tradere include betray, traitor, and treason.

Reconstruction by Eugenia Loli



Alternatives to Bullets

From liquids that smell like dead animals to high-temperature heat rays, the present and future of non-lethal weapons.


In the wake of recent high-profile police shootings, manufacturers of non-lethal weapons have seized on the opportunity to sell devices they say might have saved the lives of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, and many others. Companies with names like Micron Products, Alternative Ballistics, and Bruzer Less Lethal International are now a part of the decades-old field of less-lethal weapons — also called “compliance” or “pacification” devices — offering everything from bullets that don’t penetrate to devices that slow bullets down.
“I just looked out there and there wasn’t anything that really would have been practical and useful in a tense one-on-one situation like in Ferguson,” says Christian Ellis, the CEO of Alternative Ballistics, which tried to sell one such device to the Ferguson police department. “That’s why we got into this business.”

Police officers, for their part, already have less-lethal tools on their belts — nightsticks, pepper spray, and TASERs — and some feel that the additional options are not much more useful despite their variety and complexity. “It’s like comparing phone plans,” says Sid Heal, former commander in the L.A.P.D. and an expert on less-lethal force.

Whatever the future holds for these alternatives, police departments already have, in recent years, added a few gentler tools to their arsenals. Below, an inventory of some of those tools, as well as a look at what might flood the market soon.

Bean Bags
A sock-shaped pouch filled with lead, silicone, or rubber balls, fired from a shotgun. The pouch expands in the air for wider impact.

Approximate cost: $4.50 to $6.50 per round.

When it’s most useful: Anytime a person is "noncompliant" but far away and "not yet a direct threat," says Steve Ijames, the police chief in Republic, Mo. and an expert on less-lethal force.

Effect on target: Pain, muscle spasms, and temporary immobility, but no penetration of the skin.

Why it’s appealing: It’s inexpensive.

Potential downsides: Unless a shotgun containing bean bags is adequately marked in a different color (usually orange), it can easily be confused with a shotgun loaded with real shells, which police call "cross-contamination" and has repeatedly causeddeaths, according to the National Institute of Justice. Even if the correct gun is used, there is a risk of serious or deadly injury if the bean bag is fired at the head — and it’s difficult to avoid hitting the head, face, throat, or center of the chest "when a person is twisting or running around," says Heal.

Where it’s used: Different versions of bean bags have existed for over three decades, and are perhaps the most widely-used non-lethal weapon outside of the TASER, pepper spray, and nightstick. As the technology has evolved (from a flatter, squarer bag that was inaccurate as a projectile and sometimes failed to expand properly mid-air), it has become significantly less dangerous.

Blunt-Impact Projectiles
Plastic bullets (37 mm or 40 mm) capped with gel, silicone, or foam, fired from a single-shot gas launcher or giant revolver. The bullets are designed to flatten upon impact. They can also be filled with pepper spray or liquids that smell like fecal matter, rotten eggs, or dead animals, to further repel the suspect.

Approximate cost: $350 to $1200 for the gun, $25 per round.

When it’s most useful: Subduing a potentially violent suspect from a distance, and when the officer has time to get a large, specialized weapon out of the trunk.

Effect on target: Severe, blunt pain.

Why it’s appealing: The projectiles have a soft, wide surface of impact and should not be able to pierce through skin or injure internal organs.

Potential downsides: Very expensive and only useful at long range; also liable to cause serious or deadly injury if fired at the head, neck, or chest.

Where it’s used: The newest version has already been purchased by at least 16 law-enforcement agencies, including the SWAT teams in L.A. County and Sacramento.


Small (.68-inch), round, plastic balls filled with synthetic capsaicin powder, the active ingredient in chili peppers. A paintball-style gun rapidly fires the balls, which explode after hitting any surface, releasing the powder.

Approximate cost: $150 to $300 for a paintball gun or $250 to $500 for a brand-name PepperBall gun; $3 to $5 per round.

When it’s most useful: Indoors (including in jails and other correctional situations), when the officer can aim at walls and ceilings to release the pepper powder.

Effect on target: Puffy, watery, stinging eyes; runny nose; difficulty breathing; and coughing.
Why it’s appealing: One of the few alternatives that doesn't need to make direct contact with the target — police can shoot it anywhere nearby, and the effect of the capsaicin powder will be the same. However, cops’ training and instincts often cause them to aim for "center mass," says Heal. According to Ijames, the pepperballs "beg a shot to the upper body, because the officer wants to make sure the suspect gets the worst of the pepper."

Potential downsides: The round shape of a pepperball is relatively unstable as it flies through the air, and because of "trajectory degradation," it is not nearly as accurate as a sleek, pointed bullet.

Where it’s used: Most famously used in 1999 during the “Battle of Seattle” anti-WTO riots. In 2004, the Boston Police Department accidentally killed a 21-year-old college student who was celebrating the Red Sox's World Series victory — by firing a pepperball at her eye.

“The Alternative”
An orange metal attachment that an officer can quickly clip onto the barrel of his handgun before firing a shot. The clip-on “catches” the bullet — like an airbag — making it fly about one-fifth as fast.

Approximate cost: $45 per unit.

When it’s most useful: Anytime an officer needs to fire his regular service weapon but does not want the shot to be deadly, and has time to attach this device.

Effect on target: Instead of penetrating and potentially killing the suspect, the slowed-down bullet only knocks him down. “But it might break ribs and it feels like getting hit in the chest with a hammer,” says Ellis, the CEO of the company that manufactures the product.

Why it’s appealing: The Alternative is a compact device that is relatively easy to incorporate into everyday use. The officer can take the clip-on from his belt and attach it to his handgun.
Potential downsides: According to Heal, one “weapons platform” should deliver only one type of force — either lethal or non-lethal. Combining the two on the same gun, he says, is inherently dangerous: What if the officer instinctively “double-taps” (pulls the trigger twice), as most police are trained to do? The result would be the firing of a lethal round right after the non-lethal one has already been discharged.

Where it’s used: A month after the shooting of Michael Brown, the assistant chief of Ferguson's police department took to Google, searching for a less-lethal option for cops. He came up with The Alternative, but after a group of experts sent a letter saying how dangerous they believed the device was, Ferguson has stopped considering it.

“The XREP”
Manufactured until 2012 by TASER International, the XREP is essentially a long-range, wireless version of the traditional TASER, firing plastic shells that each contain sharpened electrodes, a battery, a transmitter, and a microprocessor. When a shell hits the suspect, the electrodes are released and pierce through clothes and skin, releasing up to 50,000 volts of electricity for 20 seconds.

Approximate cost: Over $1,000 for the launcher, $100 per round.

When it’s most useful: For incapacitating people from a distance.

Effect on target: Muscles contract uncontrollably, causing the person to freeze and fall to the ground. And if the person attempts to pull out the electrodes, a circuit is created, spreading the effect.

Why it’s appealing: Like a TASER, the XREP can effectively subdue a person who is suicidal or under the influence of drugs, or otherwise has a high threshold for pain. And unlike a TASER, the XREP can be fired from a distance.

Potential downsides: The XREP’s high cost is its main downside. But, like TASER products, it could be dangerous: According to a 2013 report by Amnesty International, the TASER has caused more than 500 deaths in the United States since 2001.

Where it’s been used: TASER discontinued the XREP back in 2012, because it was expensive and “departments just weren’t buying it,” says TASER spokesperson Steve Tuttle. But several police departments around the country still have the XREP, and few use it occasionally. It was used in March by cops in Albuquerque, N.M., against a mentally-ill person.

“ML-12” Less-Lethal Launcher
A two-shot pistol that shoots most types of less-lethal ammunition (bean bags, pepper rounds, rubber balls, flares, etc.).

When it’s most useful: Close or hand-to-hand confrontations, at traffic stops, in small rooms.

Approximate cost: $549 for the launcher and holster, $4 to $7 per round.

Effect on target: Depends on the type of round.

Why it’s appealing: This is a weapon that the officer can wear on his/her belt and have on hand in any situation.

Potential downsides: It only fires two shots, and two-thirds of use-of-force encounters require an officer to fire more than twice, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Where it’s used: Tommy Teach, the founder of Bruzer Less Lethal International, the company that markets the ML-12, says it has been purchased by over a hundred "small, rural police departments — who prefer it to the TASER because of its lower cost."

“Active Denial System”
Designed by the military, the ADS, also known as the “pain ray,” is shaped like a satellite dish and shoots an invisible, 95 GHz wave of heat at the suspect — similar to the waves inside a microwave.

How it would be used: To stop, deter, and force the retreat of a person who is approaching too aggressively.

Effect on target: Heats the skin to 130° Fahrenheit in under two seconds, causing excruciating, quickly unbearable pain.

Why it’s appealing: The ADS has been thoroughly researched by the Department of Defense, and after 13,000 tests on human subjects, there have been only two serious injuries and no lasting side effects, according to the Pentagon.

Potential downsides: The ADS is very large; the existing model is designed to be mounted on top of a humvee or military-sized vehicle. Police would need a much smaller version with less range but greater portability (and one that doesn’t take half a day to boot up). The ACLU has also called the ADS a torture device.

Status: Available to the military in Afghanistan for deterring individuals who were getting too close to U.S. troops, the ADS was considered for use at the Pitchess Detention Center in Los Angeles County to disrupt assaults and fights. The National Institute of Justice has long considered developing a smaller, handheld version — to be used by law enforcement.

Reform asset forfeiture in criminal justice system

Citizens Voice.Com

Under the umbrella of fighting drug crimes, state governments have created a profitable if nefarious business from seizing the assets of people who are not responsible for the crimes.
Pennsylvania’s law is among the most draconian. If the government can show that property is even tangentially connected to a crime, it can seize the material. And the law imposes only a civil standard based on a preponderance of the evidence, rather than the criminal standard of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, to seize cash, cars, houses and anything else. The burden of proof is on the property owner, rather than on the government seizing the property.

Pennsylvania averages about $14 million a year in such civil asset forfeitures.
Nationwide, the power is widely abused by state and federal police agencies. The laws provide an incentive for that abuse, in that money derived from the asset forfeitures go directly to those police agencies for whatever purposes they choose.

Some local courts have been cautious about allowing such seizures. But in those cases local police agencies often have skirted that obstacle by inviting federal law enforcement agencies into the investigation, which then enables the government to shop for the least restrictive venue in which to bring the forfeiture case.

 The feds and local police then split the proceeds.

New Mexico, where the practice had become egregious, is the first state to establish sweeping reforms based on due process and actual proven criminality of the property owner.
Reform bills based on New Mexico’s new law were introduced this year in both houses of the state Legislature, with bipartisan support from libertarian property-rights advocates and progressive advocates of criminal justice reform. They have not moved from committees.
The bills would require the criminal conviction of the property owner to trigger asset forfeiture and close the “equitable sharing” loophole by which local agencies hand off cases to the feds.

Also, to end the incentive, the bills require proceeds from forfeitures to be deposited in the general fund of the government where the action takes place, rather than directly into the police agency’s account.

The Legislature should restore fairness and accountability to the system by adopting these badly needed reforms.

Lippman Announces Initiatives to Reform 'Broken' Bail System

Andrew Denney, New York Law Journal

While unveiling a package of reforms to New York's bail system on Thursday, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman used words from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" to describe the system today: "Sentence first, verdict afterwards."

"They are meant as a parody of justice," he said. "Yet the words ring true for New York's bail system."

The reforms Lippman announced include the launch of a pilot electronic supervision program for Manhattan Criminal Court, new review procedures for setting bail and enhanced training for judges and clerks on alternative forms of bail.

"With the reforms announced today, we will make major strides in overhauling our broken system of bail," Lippman said at a forum in Manhattan hosted by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. "Reforming the institution of bail in New York will go a long way toward ensuring that our justice system not only protects the public safety, but also is fair and just for each and every New Yorker, rich and poor alike."

The changes will be enacted within the constraints of the court system's existing statutory authority and thus do not need approval from lawmakers in Albany, where Lippman's efforts to implement comprehensive bail reform have languished.

Under the new plan, one judge in each of New York City's five boroughs will be assigned to conduct de novo review of bail amounts for misdemeanor defendants that will be triggered if the defendants cannot make bail.

Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said the five judges would likely be chosen in the next few weeks.
Lippman said the bail review judges will have more time than arraignment judges to consider bail determinations, as "enormous" caseloads and legally imposed time constraints often preclude an arraignment court's ability to thoroughly consider bail issues.

Additionally, defense attorneys will be able to present a "more accurate" client record to the court, a release from the Office of Court Administration stated.

OCA will issue rules to require regular judicial review of bail amounts in felony cases. Judges will hold status conferences—in which prosecutors may be asked if the parties are ready for trial and when they were last in contact with key witnesses—to evaluate the viability of prosecutors' cases and potentially change defendants' bail statuses.

Marks said a "good yardstick" for judges to hold such conferences is every three months, but he said the rules will be flexible. "This will be left in large part to the judge's individual discretion. There could be some variation from case to case."

The pilot electronic supervision program will be limited to misdemeanor cases where defendants are unable to post bail and do not involve domestic violence, assault and sexual offenses.
The average cost of detention in New York City is $100,000 annually, according to the OCA, but Marks said that electronic supervision of low-level offenders can cost as little as a few hundred dollars per year. He said the program is expected to launch later this year.

Alternate Bail

State statutes allow judges to use seven different types of bail, but in practice, judges only use two: cash bail and insurance company bail bonds. To encourage judges to tap a wider array of bail types, including payment by credit cards, the court system will enhance training for judges and clerks.
About 14 percent of people arraigned in New York City, or about 45,500, are sent to jail because they cannot make bail, according to city officials. More than half of those remain incarcerated until their cases are deposed.
For low-income people, Lippman said, spending even a few days in jail can cause the fabric of their lives to unravel, as they risk losing their jobs; losing access to public assistance or falling behind in school. He also said being detained carries its own health risks by potentially exposing defendants to violence and disease.
"Lives that may be precarious to begin with can fall apart, creating an avalanche of social ills," Lippman said.
He framed his remarks with the case of Kalief Browder, a robbery suspect who was held at Rikers Island for three years until his case was dismissed. Browder, who maintained that he was innocent of the robbery, killed himself in June.
In a statement issued following Lippman's announcement, Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice for the New York City Legal Aid Society, said that Legal Aid is "extremely encouraged" by the reforms.
"As the primary public defender in New York City representing over 200,000 indigent people, we see the devastating effects that bail and pretrial detention create in the lives of our clients and families," Luongo said. "For many of our clients, bail as low as five hundred dollars is unaffordable and forces people to plead guilty to escape the horrors of Rikers Island and return to their families."
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who attended the event, said during a question-and-answer session that he supported the reforms. But to make them a success, he said, judicial vacancies should be filled and judges should be willing to set firm trial dates.
"If you wish cases to move forward expeditiously, as you do, first and foremost we must have a system that actually gets cases out to trial," Vance told Lippman.
Lippman said the bail bond industry, which opposed his legislative recommendations, is generally unwilling to write bonds for less than $1,000 because they are not "sufficiently lucrative."
Michelle Esquenazi, chair of the New York State Bail Bonds Association and president and CEO of Empire Bail Bonds, said in response that "day in and day out," New York bail bond companies issue $500 bonds. She also said the bail bond industry ensures defendants show up in court while protecting public safety. "We are an integral part of the criminal justice system," she said.
Jerome McElroy, executive director of the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, the city's contracted pretrial agency, said the initiative to set up a bail review system "seems very appropriate," as arraignments tend to take place in 10 minutes or less.
But he said officials should go further and form a commission made up of attorneys and lawmakers to study the "front end" of criminal proceedings—from the point where a defendant is charged to the arraignment phase—to determine if the processes used in New York should be changed.
"I think that would be the ideal way to proceed, but I don't know that there would be an awful lot of interest in doing that," he said.
In early 2013, Lippman called for top-to-bottom reforms of the state's bail system that required changes to state law. Among them was creating a statutory presumption of release for defendants without bail in cases where judges find defendants do not pose a flight risk or a danger to public safety¬, and granting judges the authority to impose a range of pretrial release conditions.
Currently, New York judges are not allowed to take public safety into account when setting bail, which is allowed in 46 other states and in the District of Columbia.
But Lippman, who will retire at the end of the year, said Thursday that reform efforts in Albany have stalled because lawmakers are "paralyzed by hard-on-crime, soft-on-crime finger pointing."
On Thursday, State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, announced that he plans to propose legislation in the upcoming session to eliminate bail entirely.
"The bail system has been bastardized to become a means of imprisoning people without due process," Gianaris said in a statement posted on his Senate website. "Too often bail is used as a means to incarcerate someone before they're even tried and convicted, and what we've seen is on very minor offenses, people spend more time in jail waiting for their trial than the offense would justify."
Earlier this year, Vance's office and New York City announced they were pooling $17.8 million to expand supervised release programs, and the city is in the process of setting up a $1.4 million fund for bail set at less than $2,000.
New York City Councilman Rory Lancman, a Queens Democrat who chairs the City Council's courts and legal service committee, said the council is still working to find a not-for-profit organization or organizations to manage the fund.
"We want to get it up and running, but we want it to be done right," he said.
Andrew Denney can be reached via email or on Twitter @messagetime.

Southeast Asia Rises Against the Death Penalty

Will the tiny tigers hang their eye-for-an-eye doctrine out to dry? Cambodia, East Timor and the Philippines have eliminated firing squads. Brunei, Myanmar and Laos have unplugged their electric chairs. Just four countries in the region still allow capital punishment: Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Even they are cutting back, and compared to the hundreds of executions in previous decades, only 119 people have been put to death in the region in the last eight years — a number activists hope will soon drop to zero.

Surge in executions in death penalty countries

“The 13th World Day against the Death Penalty will take place on 10th October. What is the current situation worldwide?” asks Ben from London.
The response is from Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, Executive Director of Together Against the Death Penalty and Vice-President of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.
About 30 or 40 years ago, two thirds of countries worldwide used to apply the death penalty regularly. Today it’s the exact opposite: two thirds of UN countries have abolished the death penalty, either in law or in practice.
Executions surge
However, in recent years, we have seen a surge in executions particularly in countries which had not executed prisoners for years or were part of a moratorium process.
Executions and death sentences are mostly due to drug-related crimes.
Europe is almost 100% abolitionist except Belarus. Latin America is nearly 100% abolitionist except for some Caribbean islands.
Sub-Saharan Africa is more and more abolitionist. And the Maghreb has not executed prisoners for more than 20 years now.
Death penalty zone
So, to sum up, the poles of executions and death convictions can be found in 3 areas: the Middle East, Asia and then I’ll add to these two areas, the unfortunate US exception.
It’s still very difficult to collect data especially from China and Iran for instance. According to the figures given by Human Rights NGOs, around 600 to 700 people are executed every year worldwide. But actually it must be around 3,000 to 4,000.
The terrorist threat does not justify maintaining the death penalty as we’ve seen in Iraq for example. The more violent the response of the Iraqi State through the death penalty, the more terrorism there has been. As we abolished slavery, we must put an end to this totally cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.”

What Laws Should Be Passed to Reform Policing?
Answer by Tim Dees, retired cop and criminal justice professor:
If I could change any law, I would grossly simplify the tax code, but I assume since I'm a former police officer, it's more interesting to hear about how I would change law enforcement and criminal justice.
Law enforcement officers would be required to have, at minimum, a bachelor's degree. Those intending a police career would participate in a ROTC-style training program all four years. The certification would be valid nationwide. Police education and training would place considerable emphasis on the “why” as opposed to the “how.” Every new officer would have a thorough, documented understanding of the proper role of police in a free society and oriented toward problem-solving as opposed to enforcement as a first and only option.
Everyone with police powers (every rank) would have to pass an annual medical, psychological, and physical fitness exam. There would be rehabilitative services available, but if you couldn't pass the tests in a reasonable amount of time (say, a year), you would cease to be a law enforcement officer.
Cops would have to spend at least five years in the basic assignment of their agency (typically uniformed patrol) before they could even apply for promotion or a more specialized assignment. Those aspiring to be supervisors in a specialty area like detectives or training would be required to have at least three years of nonsupervisory experience in that area. Every specialized assignment would have a list of skills and minimum qualifications. Acquiring these skills and qualifications would require considerable personal effort from the employee and would typically take several years to complete. When openings in a specialized assignment occurred, only employees who had completed that list would be eligible for the assignment.
Every sworn officer, regardless of rank, would spend at least one week per year working in the basic mission of the agency—again, typically uniformed patrol. Those above the rank of sergeant would spend two weeks and would spend an equal amount of time on each shift.
Each state and the federal government would have a commission on law enforcement accountability. Misconduct investigations, criminal and procedural, would be performed by this agency, which would also be where misconduct complaints were lodged. Investigators could have no prior connections with the agency they were investigating. Officers found to have committed willful misconduct would have their law enforcement certifications suspended for a period commensurate with the level of misconduct or revoked altogether. Each officer subject to discipline would have the right to a trial-type hearing before an impartial arbiter with law enforcement experience. Both the state and the officer would have subpoena power for these hearings, and testimony would be sworn. If a misconduct complaint was clearly fabricated, the person making the complaint could be charged with false swearing or filing a false police report. The police standard of professional conduct with regard to culpability would increase with rank and seniority. An act of misconduct that might merit a two-day suspension for a rookie officer would be likely to earn an executive a month's suspension.
Whistleblower protections would be extended to all public employees and enforced vigorously.
Before the commencement of a criminal trial, the accused would supply the judge with a sealed statement. The statement would contain the account of what happened in the incident(s) on which the trial is based, from the accused's perspective. Each major element of the defense would be included. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge would open and review this statement. If the defense case was consistent with this account, nothing would happen. If the defense presented a different fact set (i.e., they lied), the accused would be charged with perjury, and the state would have the opportunity to retry the case without double jeopardy attaching if there had been an acquittal. (I didn't think this up. It came from Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justiceby Harold J. Rothwax.)

California asset forfeiture reform fails despite conflicts of interest: Guest commentary
By Diane Goldstein

Upton Sinclair famously stated, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.” This quote rang especially true when the California Assembly voted down Sen. Holly Mitchell’s civil asset forfeiture reform bill despite overwhelming voter support.
Asset forfeiture was originally intended to cripple drug dealers by stripping them of their profits, but civil forfeiture, a type of asset forfeiture, has permitted police to seize property from individuals without having to convict them of a crime and is usually used against the poor and marginalized. Mitchell’s Senate Bill 443 would have required law enforcement to “seek or obtain” a conviction to make a lawful seizure, ensuring due process for innocent owners.
In its report “Above the Law: An Investigation into Civil Asset Forfeiture in California,” The Drug Policy Alliance documented many of the abuses that have occurred in California. Most notable is that the average seizure in 2013 was for $8,542 and is clearly not drug kingpin money. Last year, a Washington Post analysis of the Federal Equitable Sharing Program, (the funding mechanism between agencies) found less than 10 percent of assets seized resulted in an indictment.
Yet the California law enforcement lobby claimed it would lose $80 million a year if SB 443 passed, making the drug war profitable not just for criminals but also for law enforcement. This has resulted in the corruption of our mission and prioritizes profits over fundamental civil liberties.
I agree with the original architects of civil asset forfeiture, John Yoder and Brad Cates, who stated in a 2014 Washington Post opinion piece that the program should be abolished. They said, “The program had failed in both purpose and execution,” and that the tactic itself is evil, “with the corruption it engendered among ... law enforcement coming to clearly outweigh any benefits.”
As a criminal justice professional, I testified in three committees and met with California lawmakers and legislative staffers in the Senate and the Assembly before the vote. Staffers said that California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) and California Association of District Attorneys (CADA) were calling legislators directly to tell them the latest amendments would continue to impact funding and participation on federal task forces and result in the federal government decertifying California. All of this is untrue. It is this behavior that Yoder and Cates discuss when they point to how the asset forfeiture program, designed with good intentions, has been corrupted.
SB 443 would not have removed any investigatory tools or the ability of law enforcement to seize property from criminals at the local level or while working in a taskforce. This bill simply provided transparency while upholding one of the fundamental principles of our Constitution: due process.
Recent polls continue to find Americans don’t believe there is accountability for criminal justice misconduct, misuse of force, or racial discrimination. Aggressive lobbying and mischaracterization of this bill is just another indicator of the many systemic issues in policing and in our courts. It’s time for legislators to fix the conflict of interest that exists when police and prosecutors have a budgetary stake in forfeited property and are able to circumvent legislative oversight as required by law.
Diane Goldstein is a retired lieutenant spent more than 20 years with the Redondo Beach Police Department. She is an executive board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

When Independent Police Oversight Becomes Too Independent
New Orleans’ independent police monitor released videos of police violence. Now her job is in danger.

BRENTIN MOCK @brentinmock Sep 30, 2015 1 Comment

New Orleans police barged into the Allen family home on March 7, 2012, armed with a search warrant secured only minutes before and with a lot of guns. One of the cops was also armed with a stealth video-recording device, unbeknownst to his squad. Within seconds of tearing through the house’s back door and first floor, which was filled with children, Officer Joshua Colclough ran up the steps and encountered Wendell Allen, who the officer then shot in the chest.

Allen, 20 years old, was unarmed and was wearing only pajama bottoms. He died from Colclough’s shot. Allen’s brother and a friend, both 19, witnessed the shooting. Normally it would have been their word against the police’s in terms of who was at fault. At least one police investigator was reportedly framing the crime scene interrogations in terms that suggested Allen was trying to kill Colclough. 

Two things stopped that story from becoming the prevailing narrative: the secretly recorded video of the sting, and the independent police monitor who reviewed the investigation. Ultimately, Colclough pled guilty to manslaughter and is serving a four-year sentence in jail. The Allen family has filed a federal civil suit against the New Orleans Police Department, which has not yet been resolved. It’s clear from the many investigation reports released about this incident that Allen’s family would not have achieved justice without the video and the police monitor.

This sounds like a compelling example of police accountability in action. But in fact, it may result in getting New Orleans’ independent police monitor fired. The New Orleans Advocate newspaper reported on Friday that the city’s Inspector General, Ed Quatrevaux, wants the Chief Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson gone. According to The Advocate, the reasons for this stem from years of squabbling between the two city offices, including the inspector general’s disgruntlement with the police monitor for releasing information about violent police to the public without his permission.

If the inspector general gets his way, this may prove to be an example of what happens when civilian police oversight becomes too effective—or at least, too independent. Meanwhile, legislators in a number of places have tried to pass legislation that would limit or prevent public access to video evidence of police violence.

This raises a few questions: If a police officer shoots or harms someone on camera but the public can’t see the video, did it happen? In cases where video is released, how does the public know that it hasn’t been tampered with without someone independent from the police monitoring the investigation? To paraphrase Boogie Down Productions’ 1989 question: The police are sent to protect, but who ensures protection from the police? 
Government-created commissions and social-justice organizations are both trying to pin down answers to these questions. 

The Forward Through Ferguson Commission, created in the aftermath of the police killing of Michael Brown, made a broad call for civilian oversight of police in a 198-page report released earlier this month. Civilian police review boards, independent police monitors, and similar oversight entities have been around for decades, working somewhat impressively in cities like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. In Atlanta, the police chief swaps phone numbers with organizers ahead of demonstrations to keep an open line of communication during protests and rallies.

David Harris, a policing expert at the University of Pittsburgh, tells CityLab that the effectiveness of civilian oversight—whether through review boards or monitors—boils down to a few things:

“Is it independent? Does it have its own governing board, and its own subpoena power? Does it have its own non-law-enforcement investigators, its own budget and a working staff? That’s the minimum package required for these things to succeed,” says Harris. “In a lot of cities, in how they’re set up, they don’t have all those things.”

Without those ingredients, efforts to produce effective civilian oversight can actually end up becoming counterproductive, which Harris says he’s seen happen.

Sometimes how it goes is, “police oversight reforms get proposed and put in place by a city, but they have not given [the reforms] the proper tools to succeed, and after a short time people think it’s a paper tiger,” says Harris. “When you have what sounds like what should be an impressive way of ensuring policing accountability, but they see it goes nowhere, a lot of times these things have not only not helped inspire community confidence in the police, they actually hurt it.”

Communities of color are lately demanding more muscular regulation of police operations that includes the full suite of features Harris describes—the “non-law-enforcement investigators” in particular for instances when police kill. Campaign Zero, a policy platform generated by Black Lives Matter-associated activists, has made this an essential component of its police-reform agenda. 

In Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director James Palmer’s testimony to the White House’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, he said that any police-involved-killing investigation should be “conducted by at least two investigators … neither of whom is employed by a law-enforcement agency that employs a law-enforcement officer involved in the officer-involved death.” 

New Orleans is one of the few cities that has a monitor who’s not on the police force, but who has powers to audit investigations into civilian injuries and deaths caused by police or those that occur while in police custody. The independent police monitor’s office was approved by 70 percent of New Orleans voters in 2008 through a ballot referendum, and was activated in 2009 under the city’s Office of Inspector General. It’s led by a civilian, Susan Hutson, an attorney who worked for Los Angeles’ inspector general’s office prior to coming to New Orleans. 

The city also has a federal monitor who ensures compliance with the consent decree between the New Orleans Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice. The city’s independent monitor is part of that consent decree, meaning that any violation of the independent-monitoring requirements is considered a violation of the federal agreement. The federal monitoring team, which is composed mostly of past and present police chiefs from other cities, is also led by an attorney, Jonathan Aronie, who once served as deputy independent monitor for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.

In New Orleans, there are additional layers of monitoring from the Public Integrity Bureau and the Force Investigative Team, which are both made up of city police. The bureau is essentially an internal affairs department, while the investigative team is a separate unit under the bureau that focuses specifically on officer-involved violence.
When it comes to police violence: Pics, or it didn’t happen.

It’s a whirlwind of monitoring, but it’s warranted—as the consent decree, a history of corruption, and the well-circulated stories of police brutality during Katrina made abundantly clear. Yet, it also creates the kind of wire-crossing and barbed entanglements that currently have the independent police monitor’s job in jeopardy.
Last week, Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux sent a letter to the city’s Ethics Review Board asking to eliminate Hutson from her post as chief police monitor. Her office sits within the inspector general’s office, and the inspector general determines the monitor’s budget. But Hutson has accused the inspector general of creating a hostile work environment, and of compromising the independence of her monitoring team. It’s gotten so bad that both offices are, or at least were, working on amending the city’s charter so that they can officially divorce. 

Quatrevaux cited a few reasons for wanting to get rid of Hutson—one of them being a scathing report the monitor recently released that categorically ripped apart the police department’s investigation into the 2012 killing of Wendell Allen. Quatrevaux believes all police reports need his approval before they’re released to the public. Hutson maintains that this would essentially undermine her office’s obligation to the public, which is to bring transparency to police actions, especially in matters of life and death. 

This is the kind of scenario that could play out in other cities as they design new infrastructure for law enforcement oversight. Independent police monitoring is endorsed from Ferguson to the White House—on paper. But if independence is not clearly defined in the design, then problems like the one in New Orleans are fated to arise. Establishing independence in this context boils down to how transparent the police, and their unions, will allow themselves to be.

In the Wendell Allen case, transparency was forced. It was the independent police monitor’s office that coerced the police department into collecting the video evidence from the cop who recorded the sting operation—evidence that New Orleans police didn’t even want to acknowledge existed.

The police monitor then released the video recording of Allen’s killing to the public, against the police department’s wishes. It was the only way to refute the police’s narrative of what happened. The police initially claimed, and have maintained, that they announced themselves before barging into Allen’s house. The video proved that they didn’t. The police also initially stated that Allen might have attempted to attack the police officer. The video proved this false as well.

This summer, the independent police monitor also released video of a New Orleans cop who beat a mentally ill 16-year-old girl. This rankled the inspector general and a court judge, who then reportedly directed the police department to limit the monitor’s access to video evidence.

When it comes to police violence: Pics, or it didn’t happen. This is why the independent police monitor has insisted on video evidence, but according to Quatrevaux’s letter, such evidence led the judge to accuse Hutson of “attempting to 'sensationalize' police incidents.”
 This alone illuminates the unbalanced scales of justice in law enforcement. Police can instantly publicize video of civilians committing crimes—think Michael Brown in Ferguson. It doesn’t matter how trivial the criminal violation.

 In fact, many believe that aggressive cracking down on even the mildest of crimes is good policy. But there’s no “broken windows” theory for cracking down on police misconduct, just broken transparency.

New Orleans’ Ethics Review Board will hold a hearing on October 23 to consider whether to honor the inspector general’s request to fire the police monitor. The board’s decision will signal to other cities designing their own police monitoring reforms just how much independence is considered too much.


This is a book of short stories taken from the things I saw and heard in my childhood in the factory town of Ansonia in southwestern Connecticut.

Most of these stories, or as true as I recall them because I witnessed these events many years ago through the eyes of child and are retold to you now with the pen and hindsight of an older man. The only exception is the story Beat Time which is based on the disappearance of Beat poet Lew Welch. Decades before I knew who Welch was, I was told that he had made his from California to New Haven, Connecticut, where was an alcoholic living in a mission. The notion fascinated me and I filed it away but never forgot it.     

The collected stories are loosely modeled around Joyce’s novel, Dubliners (I also borrowed from the novels character and place names. Ivy Day, my character in “Local Orphan is Hero” is also the name of chapter in Dubliners, etc.) and like Joyce I wanted to write about my people, the people I knew as a child, the working class in small town America and I wanted to give a complete view of them as well. As a result the stories are about the divorced, Gays, black people, the working poor, the middle class, the lost and the found, the contented and the discontented.

Conversely many of the stories in this book are about starting life over again as a result of suicide (The Hanging Party, Small Town Tragedy, Beat Time) or from a near death experience (Anna Bell Lee and the Charge of the Light Brigade, A Brief Summer) and natural occurring death. (The Best Laid Plans, The Winter Years, Balanced and Serene)

With the exception of Jesus Loves Shaqunda, in each story there is a rebirth from the death. (Shaqunda is reported as having died of pneumonia in The Winter Years)
Sal, the desperate and depressed divorcee in Things Change, changes his life in Lunch Hour when asks the waitress for a date and she accepts. (Which we learn in Closing Time, the last story in the book) In The Arranged Time, Thisby is given the option of change and whether she takes it or, we don’t know. The death of Greta’s husband in A Matter of Time has led her to the diner and into the waiting arms of the outgoing and lovable Gabe.

Although the book is based on three sets of time (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the diner is opened in the early morning and closed at night, time stands still inside the Diner. The hour on the big clock on the wall never changes time and much like my memories of that place, everything remains the same.





How close the clouds press this October first
and the rain—a gray scarf across the sky.
In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend
lie waiting for their respective operations,
hours on a table as surgeons crack their chests.
They were so brave when I talked to them last
as they spoke of the good times we would share
in the future. To neither did I say how much
I loved them, nor express the extent of my fear.
Their bodies are delicate glass boxes
at which the world begins to fling its stones.
Is this the day their long cry will be released?
How can I live in this place without them?
But today is also my son’s birthday.
He is eight and beginning his difficult march.
To him the sky is welcoming, the road straight.
Far from my house he will open his presents—
a book, a Swiss army knife, some music. Where
is his manual of instructions? Where is his map
showing the dark places and how to escape them?

Sculpture this and Sculpture that


Soda Is Bad For You & the Industry's Finally Starting To Suffer

(Carrie Dennis / Gothamist)
It's no secret that soda is killing you one 20-ounce bottle at a time, whether your preferred beverage comes packed with sugar, aspartame, or (ugh) stevia. But even with all the health warnings, failed soda bans/taxes, and Parks & Recreation episodes, Big Soda's still been pocketing dollar after dollar, until now—a new report in the Times claims the soda industry seems to be starting to fizzle.
"[S]oda companies are losing the war," the Times crowed today, noting that despite failed policies like Mayor Bloomberg's soda ban and soda taxes in Philadelphia and San Francisco, sales of full-calorie sodas have fallen by over 25 percent in the last two decades. Americans are taking heed of health initiatives pointing out that sweetened beverages are, among other things, major contributors to weight gain and obesity, and are starting to swap out Coke for water—the average American buys about 35 gallons of water per year and 40 gallons of soda, as opposed to 15 gallons of water and 50 gallons of soda in 2000.
The best news (for humanity, not for soda companies) is that American kids are drinking far less soda than they used to. A recent study noted that children's daily soda consumption dropped by as much as 79 percent from 2004 to 2012—some of this is credited to the removal of soda vending machines in public schools and other government buildings. In Philadelphia, where Big Soda managed to kill a soda tax in 2010, health initiatives have knocked soda consumption down so much that 24 percent fewer teens were drinking the bubbly stuff in 2013 than they were in 2007, which correlated with a decline in childhood obesity.

Indeed, the Times piece likens soda to the "new tobacco," and notes that the fewer Americans grow up drinking soda, the fewer will choose it as a beverage in adulthood. Which is good news, indeed, considering even diet soda might not be all that good for you. At least booze gets you drunk


Bloodied members of the American Legion recover following a fight with members of the German American Bund (American Nazi Party) in 1938.


Kenneth Noland, Song, 1958

Lois Dodd