Wandering Eye: The Department of Recreation and Parks stalls, the rights of cops who shoot unarmed citizens, and more

The agenda for the Oct. 22 meeting of Baltimore City's fiscal-oversight body, the Board of Estimates, includes a proposal to give a two-week extension to the Department of Recreation and Parks to resolve concerns raised by its first audit in a quarter century. Released in April and detailed here and here by the Baltimore Brew, the audit uncovered a host of complicated problems that largely stymied the Department of Audits' lengthy efforts to pierce the veil, including the department's woefully inadequate financial controls, an off-budget funding stream from a mayoral-controlled nonprofit, payroll irregularities, and more. No wonder Rec and Parks is asking for more time. (Van Smith)

 

Power plant operators have less fuel on hand than any time in the past half-decade, according to OilPrice.com, an industry newsletter. Coal burners had about 39 days worth on hand in July (the last month for which figures are available). Last July they had 59 days worth on hand. "That is largely due to clogged rail lines," the newsletter's Nick Cunningham writes. "A record grain harvest is coinciding with a historic oil boom. All these commodities are competing for limited rail capacity, making it difficult for coal to get through to their final destinations." The retirement of some coal and nuke plants complicates the picture. A lot of people think burning natural gas is the way forward, as it produces less greenhouse gas and other pollution than oil and coal. But the supply story with gas is not much different from coal: A lack of pipeline capacity is still constraining supplies to the northeast. So . . . lots of investment in new rail and pipelines, right? Nah. Power companies are banking on a warmer than normal winter. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

By what right can a police officer kill an unarmed suspect? Shaun King at Daily Kos has the answer. As the story explains, several federal court cases have shaped the rules police live by (and warp) when they shoot or kill unarmed suspects who are not actively resisting arrest. The article is long, and it's incendiary, but that is because the law and policy is too. The key ruling: Tennessee v. Garner. That was a reform that erased the right of cops to shoot pretty much any fleeing suspect. Under Garner, the suspect has to present a danger to the cop or other people. Or, at least, the cop has to be able to articulate the danger he or she felt at the moment he or she pulled the trigger. A 1989 ruling in Graham v. Connor codified this further after a police officer mistakenly beat a diabetic man. Under this ruling, a cop's actions must be "reasonable," but only given what the cop perceived at the time of the action. As King writes, "the Graham v. Connor decision allows officers to shoot and kill with lethal force when they have any random version of the 'heebie jeebies.'" Boiled down to its essence, the officer must only feel threatened—or say they did—for the shooting to be deemed "good." (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

It's been more than two months since Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the protests in Ferguson still continue as St. Louis waits to hear whether Wilson will be indicted. In the meantime, Sarah Kendzior and Umar Lee have published "'I am Darren Wilson': St. Louis and the geography of fear," which looks into the demographics and viewpoints of Wilson's supporters. It's a smart anthropological analysis, looking at the specific terminology of the Wilson supporters: "Groups of black protesters are described as a 'lynch mob' targeting whites. Looting, which has been rare during the months of protest, is emphasized." And it lays out the racial divide of St. Louis and the suburbs, and how white flight has affected the city. Ultimately, "The characterization of the protesters by Wilson supporters reflects both whites' rationale for fleeing St. Louis and Wilson's for killing Michael Brown: fear of black crime." But, as the writers note at the end of the article, "Fear keeps people on the run. But they can only keep moving for so long." (Anna Walsh)

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