Doing Justice

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Assignment (or for in-class discussion exercise):

Why Is It So Hard to Investigate Allegations of Excessive Police Force?:

Thinking About Events from "Homicide: Life on the Streets"

FOR INSTRUCTOR

BACKGROUND
  
These materials can be used either as a prompt for some in class discussion, or as a relatively short paper assignment. The topic is not so much the occurrence of excessive police force as it is the difficulties in responding to allegations about excessive police force. It is about justice agencies responding to what other agents of justice have done.

   Optimal course placement would be with the NCLO&E readings on the police "third degree" and readings about allegations of Philadelphia Police Department brutality made by the Federal Courts in the late 1970s.

   You may know David Simon from "the Wire." Before there was "The Wire"  there was the HBO series "The Corner." Before that "Homicide," one of the top rated series from the 1990s, directed by Barry Levinson:  http://www.tv.com/homicide-life-on-the-street/show/110/summary.html  Initially, the series was based on the best selling factual book by David Simon about the year he spent with the Baltimore Police Homicide Squad. His book is: Simon, D. (1991). Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. New York: Ballantine. In later years the writers started making more stuff up.

   This exercise/assignment uses two episodes from the series.

   The materials that follow below are set up in two ways. First is a list of questions that could be used for in-class discussions, presuming that students have seen the videos on their own time.

   If this is used as a paper assignment, then students can apply components of the Black model. They can try and cross reference the specific issues raised in the episodes with elements of the Black conceptual toolbox.

   An additional part of a paper assignment can be to criticize components of the Black model. Are there key things it is missing that are highly relevant here?

COORDINATION
This exercise accompanies the readings for Week 8 on “police lawlessness” and inquiries into police brutality in Philadelphia in the 1970s.

MATERIALS NEEDED
The materials needed are:

STORY BACKGROUND
A young, black male has been killed at night in a West Baltimore alley, near Fayette Street. This is a section that for a considerable period -- going all the way back to the early 1970s in fact -- had witnessed high levels of violence, shootings, and drug dealing. Pembleton (Andre Braugher) and Bayliss (Kyle Secor) are the primary homicide detectives on the case, with Pembleton taking the lead. He immediately suspects that this is a police involved shooting, and tries to get the background straight. His “gut” tells him police are involved. His boss, Girardello or Gee (Yaphet Koto) is worried about moving ahead with the investigation, worried about the impacts it will have on the department, worried about a media circus, worried about insufficient evidence.

SCENES TO VIEW

Within “See no Evil”

Scene 3  – Pembleton and Braugher arrive at crime scene, Pembleton begins initial discussions with police officers involved, crowd gathers.

Scene 4 – Pembleton continues to discuss the case in the alley with  police officer Helreigel

Scene 5 – investigation continues in the alley. Crowd gets rowdy. Gee arrives on scene.

Scene 6 - Cox’s name (the shooting victim) goes up on the board. Bayliss and Pembleton continue the conversation in G’s office with police higher ups, including a captain and a Colonel. G starts to object to the investigation of Helreigel. Community concerns surface. G gets more upset. Pembleton is instructed to pursue the case aggressively.

Scene 8  – Pembleton asks G to ask officers to submit their revolvers. G describes police involved shootings he has seen. Pembleton says police need to be held to a higher standard. G asks “how about cops sending cops to prison.” G objects because the investigation will “cost.”

Within “Black and Blue”

Scene 1 – opens with media making a big deal about the investigation, and officers turning in their weapons. Shots of Pembleton interrogating police officers in “the box.” Officers start to resent the questions. G explains how the department is being hurt.

2 – Bayliss and Howard are canvassing the community looking for more information. Black residents make it clear they think the police killed Cox. Another scene in G’s office with Pembleton and higher ups. G still thinks Pembleton off base. Pembleton requests lie detector tests. G says “this is not an ordinary murder.”

3 – Howard talks to Pembleton about a former flame coming in for a polygraph

4 - Neighbor comes in to talk to Bayliss about the Cox shooting. She is worried about what is happening in the neighborhood. Bayliss starts to talk to the women’s grandson in the box. G tells Pembleton he has to take sides. Pembleton says ok you want a confession, I’ll get you one.

6 – and he does. Suspect signs a confession. Pembleton in the box again.

7 - G in his office. Changes Cox murder back to unsolved. Talks to suspect. Tears up confession. Suspect says he knows who did shooting, but cannot say. Suspect says what he saw in the alley.

8 - Pembleton and Bayliss execute a search warrant of Lt. Tyrene’s premises.

 

 

MATERIALS FOR STUDENTS START HERE: ASSUMING USED FOR IN CLASS DISCUSSION

PURPOSE
The purpose of the exercise is to view a hypothetical investigation of a potentially police involved shooting, and to a) view and reflect on the dynamics that emerge from that shooting and that investigation; and b) reflect more broadly on the pressures that bear on justice agencies; c) consider whether or not these dynamics reflect the how behind some of Black’s considerations about how law behaves, and/or the limitations of Black's model. In other words, you are getting practice applying Black's model as it applies to a specific situation, and you are thinking about the ways the model does not work or is limited.

WHAT YOU WILL DO
1. View the following two episodes from the mid-1990s TV series "Homicide: Life on the Streets:" Season 1 (1993-1994), disk 4, the episodes “See no evil” and “Black and blue.”

The initial stories in this series were based on what a Baltimore Sun reporter, David Simon, learned while spending a year with the Baltimore City Police Department Homicide Squad. Concentrate on the scenes that address the investigation of a shooting in an alley where a police officer could be a potential suspect.

2. After viewing the episodes you will write out answers to the following question and bring your sheet with answers to class, and be prepared to discuss you answers. Your instructor may ask you to turn in your written answers. NOTE: Your instructor may ask you to answer only certain questions.

 

Questions to answer

  1. What appear to be the initial circumstances around the shooting? Why were the police chasing Cox?

  

  1. What are the concerns of the police “brass,” the higher ups?

   

  1. Why does Pembleton’s boss, G, object to Pembleton continuing to pursue the idea that it was a police involved shooting?

  

  1. As the investigation of officers widens, how does it affect internal dynamics within the police department?

   

  1. Is the community generally cooperative or not? Why? What do they think happened?

 

  1. Why does Pembleton continue to investigate officers?

  

  1. What does Pembleton hope to achieve by getting the confession from the suspect?

 

  1. Can you pick a couple of quotes from key players that indicate the difficulties with police investigating police?

  

  1. Presuming that the suspected police officer was just a "generic" officer - you did not know his/her gender or rank or race -- how would Black categorize the relationship between such a suspect and the shooting victim? Of the four Black tools in the conceptual toolbox - status, native/foreign, race/marginality, organizational - which one do you think is most relevant to this categorizing and why? If you think you need to take into account multiple dimensions from the model, explain why.

  2. Given the dimension(s) you have selected, what is the relationship between the two parties? Given that relationship, what are the implications for the perceived seriousness of the shooting?

  3. Does the community and public pressure on the police change the dynamics that Black would expect? If so, how? Do you think that these pressures and the roles they played here are or are not taken into account in Black's model.


MATERIALS FOR STUDENTS START HERE: ASSUMING USED FOR SHORT PAPER ASSIGNMENT

 

PURPOSE
The purpose of the exercise is to view a hypothetical investigation of a potentially police involved shooting, and to a) view and reflect on the dynamics that emerge from that shooting and that investigation; and b) reflect more broadly on the pressures that bear on justice agencies; c) consider whether or not these dynamics reflect the how behind some of Black’s considerations about how law behaves, and/or the limitations of Black's model. In other words, you are getting practice applying Black's model as it applies to a specific situation, and you are thinking about the ways the model does not work or is limited.

WHAT YOU WILL DO
1. View the following two episodes from the mid-1990s TV series "Homicide: Life on the Streets:" Season 1 (1993-1994), disk 4, the episodes “See no evil” and “Black and blue.”

The initial stories in this series were based on what a Baltimore Sun reporter, David Simon, learned while spending a year with the Baltimore City Police Department Homicide Squad. Concentrate on the scenes that address the investigation of a shooting in an alley where a police officer could be a potential suspect.

2. After viewing the episodes you will write 

INSTRUCTOR MATERIAL ABOUT THE EPISODES THEMSELVES

MATERIALS NEEDED. The materials needed are:

STORY BACKGROUND. A young, black male has been killed at night in a West Baltimore alley, near Fayette Street. This is a section that for a considerable period had witnessed high levels of violence, shootings, and drug dealing. Pembleton (Andre Braugher) and Bayliss (Kyle Secor) are the primary homicide detectives on the case, with Pembleton taking the lead. He immediately suspects that this is a police involved shooting, and tries to get the background straight. His “gut” tells him police are involved. His boss, Girardello, (Yaphet Koto) is worried about moving ahead with the investigation, worried about the impacts it will have on the department, worried about a media circus, worried about insufficient evidence.

SCENES TO VIEW

Within “See no Evil”

Scene 3  – Pembleton and Braugher arrive at crime scene, Pembleton begins initial discussions with police officers involved, crowd gathers.

Scene 4 – Pembleton continues to discuss the case in the alley with  police officer Helreigel

Scene 5 – investigation continues in the alley. Crowd gets rowdy. G arrives on scene.

Scene 6 Cox’s name goes up on the board. Bayliss and Pembleton continue the conversation in G’s office with police higher ups, including a captain and a Colonel. G starts to object to the investigation of Helreigel. Community concerns surface. G gets more upset. Pembleton is instructed to pursue the case aggressively.

Scene 8  – Pembleton asks G to ask officers to submit their revolvers. G describes police involved shootings he has seen. Pembleton says police need to be held to a higher standard. G asks “how about cops sending cops to prison.” G objects because the investigation will “cost.”

Within “Black and Blue”

Scene 1 – opens with media making a big deal about the investigation, and officers turning in their weapons. Shots of Pembleton interrogating police officers in “the box.” Officers start to resent the questions. G explains how the department is being hurt.

2 – Bayliss and Howard are canvassing the community looking for more information. Black residents make it clear they think the police killed Cox. Another scene in G’s office with Pembleton and higher ups. G still thinks Pembleton off base. Pembleton requests lie detector tests. G says “this is not an ordinary murder.”

3 – Howard talks to Pembleton about a former flame coming in for a polygraph

4 - Neighbor comes in to talk to Bayliss about the Cox shooting. She is worried about what is happening in the neighborhood. Bayliss starts to talk to the women’s grandson in the box. G tells Pembleton he has to take sides. Pembleton says ok you want a confession, I’ll get you one.

6 – and he does. Suspect signs a confession. Pembleton in the box again.

7 - G in his office. Changes Cox murder back to unsolved. Talks to suspect. Tears up confession. Suspect says he knows who did shooting, but cannot say. Suspect says what he saw in the alley.

8 - Pembleton and Bayliss execute a search warrant of Lt. Tyrene’s premises.