Wandering Eye: Batts and the policing elite, economic disparity in the US, and more

Simone Weichselbaum at The Marshall Project (that's a well-funded journalism shop focused on criminal justice) points out the obvious about Anthony Batts: He was and remains a creature of policing's latest academic movement, which is partly why he failed to establish trust with his officers. But there is something deep here too, just below the surface of the piece. Why is there such a sharp contrast between the group Batts belongs to and the overall police culture? And also: Why is there a whole subculture of elite police with consulting contracts and graduate degrees? What is its purpose and what is its record of effectiveness? "Batts came to town as the darling of progressive police reformers, who were excited by his PhD in public administration and the enlightened views he honed researching at Harvard rather than his record as an urban police chief," Weichselbaum, who has a graduate degree in criminology, writes. One of the things whispered (or sometimes shouted, angrily) by Baltimore Police for many years is that the skills that cops use to climb the ranks are different—maybe opposite—than those needed to be an effective police officer. Ass-kissing, ass-covering, going along to get along, and constant attention to internal politics, instead of the job at hand, get you promoted, they complain. And this is the same complaint you hear in nearly every bureaucracy. But it's only since the 1980s or so that the Peter Principle metastisized into its own insular culture, with an alphabet soup of nonprofits and lucrative consulting gigs for those most skilled at failing upward. In an economy marked by falling wages for most workers while "stars" enjoy speaking fees in the annual-salary range, Batts' example illustrates not just the failure (and ubiquity) of the "policing elite," but of the country's entire management infrastructure. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


A former Gannett reporter, Brendan O'Shaughnessy, has linked the downturn in the news industry into something workers in all industries are feeling: the disparity between the very rich and everyone else. In an article for Notre Dame Magazine, O'Shaughnessy details how Gannett employees agreed to a 10 percent pay cut, only to see that money given to executives in the form of bonuses. Here's the real kick in the junk: Gannett was actually profitable, just not as profitable as the board of directors had hoped. From there, he delves into the many indicators that upward mobility in America is a fanciful thing of the past. Over the last three decades, an economic statistic provided by the CIA shows "the United States has surpassed the inequality of some banana republics." (Brandon Weigel)


The Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. is under fire for continuing an exhibition of Bill and Camille Cosby's art collection in light of Bill Cosby's sexual assault allegations. The exhibition has been on view since November, but it wasn't until last Friday that the Smithsonian revealed that the Cosbys also funded almost the entirety of the show. In addition to work by former slaves and undervalued African-American artists, the collection features work commissioned by the Cosbys and quotations and images of Bill, who admitted under oath that he obtained quaaludes he used to drug and rape women. Aside from Cosby's behavior, criticisms of the show have been made for its potential to enhance the artworks' market value, which, in the case of a private collection, raises questions of ethics. The Cosbys are also close friends with museum director Johnetta Cole—a concerning conflict of interest. The Smithsonian's undersecretary for art, history, and culture Richard Kurin asserts that while the institution does not condone Cosby's behavior, the show is "not about the life and career of Bill Cosby. It's about the artists." (Maura Callahan)

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