The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘I Don’t Talk to the Police, Sir’

Posted on | December 27, 2022 | 1 Comment

One of the difficulties of trying to get Americans to understand our nation’s crime problem is that most people don’t acknowledge the existence of the category “criminals.” That is to say, because of the way crime is portrayed in entertainment and news media, there seems to be a widespread belief that criminal behavior is more or less randomly distributed throughout the population, so that practically everybody is equally at risk of being a crime victim or, perhaps, perpetrating a crime. However, anyone who actually researches crime will discover that a majority of serious criminal offenses are committed by a comparatively small group of repeat offenders — career criminals, the kind with the proverbial “record as long as your arm.” You could reduce the crime rate by more than 50% simply by identifying these offenders and locking them up and, in such cases, prosecutors should treat these repeat offenders according to what I’ll dub “The Al Capone Principle.”

Al Capone was the most notorious Mafia boss of the 1920 and ’30s, whose gang committed innumerable robberies, hijackings and murders, along with many other lesser crimes — bootlegging, pimping, extortion, you name it. Getting witnesses to testify to Capone’s crimes was problematic, because any witness was likely to be killed or terrorized into silence before the case went to trial. This led to the ironic consequence that, when Capone was finally sent to federal prison, it wasn’t for any of the many acts of brutal violence he had committed, but instead for evading federal income taxes. And this, I say, is the secret to reducing crime: Once you figure out who the criminals are, it doesn’t matter what offense you convict them for, so long as they’re put behind bars for a long, long time.

Well, “mass incarceration,” say the Social Justice Warriors — America is racist and too many black men were in prison, and so activists demanded policies to change this. The problem is that, from a public-safety perspective, “mass incarceration” worked. Prior to the Ferguson riots, the U.S. homicide rate had declined drastically for more than 20 years, from a peak of 9.71 per 100,000 in 1991 to 4.44 in 2014 — a 57% reduction. Several factors were involved in this remarkable public-safety success story, among them mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that sent drug dealers to prison for many years. Cry all you want about the “War on Drugs” leading to racial injustice, the fact is that a lot of violence was being perpetrated by urban gangs involved in drug trafficking, so that putting gang-bangers behind bars on drug charges had a correlated effect of reducing violent crime — “The Al Capone Principle” in action.

Mandatory sentences for drug crimes weren’t the only factor involved in this two-decade-long reduction of criminal violence, however. A lot of it had to do with how technology made it easier to apprehend and convict criminals. Surveillance video, DNA analysis, computerized fingerprint databases — beginning in the 1990s, cops and prosecutors began to acquire more and more tools to help them identify perpetrators and prove their guilt. Consider one of the biggest stories about public safety in the 1990s, the application of so-called “Broken Windows” theory in New York City. Social scientists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling are credited with popularizing the idea that by enforcing laws against “quality of life” offenses (e.g., vandalism, public intoxication, loitering), police send a signal to the community that has the effect of reducing more serious crimes. Which is no doubt true, but what really made this approach effective in New York City was NYPD’s use of CompStat:

On a weekly basis, personnel from each of the NYPD’s 77 precincts, nine police service areas and 12 transit districts compile a statistical summary of the week’s crime complaints, arrests and summons activity, as well as a written report of significant cases, crime patterns and police activities. This data, with specific crime and enforcement locations and times, is forwarded to the chief of the department’s CompStat Unit, where information is collated and loaded into a citywide database.
The unit runs computer analysis on the data and generates a weekly CompStat report. The report captures crime complaints and arrest activity at the precinct, patrol borough and citywide levels, presenting a summary of these and other important performance indicators.
The data is presented on a week-to-date, prior 28 days and year-to-date basis, with comparisons to previous years’ activity. Precinct commanders and members of the department’s senior officers can easily discern emerging and established crime trends, as well as deviations and anomalies. With the report, department leadership can easily make comparisons between commands. Each precinct is also ranked in each complaint and arrest category.

By compiling crime reports in a database, CompStat gives cops knowledge of what crimes are happening and where on a weekly basis — a computerized roadmap that helps them target enforcement in areas where crime is most common. Many cities across America adopted the approach pioneered by NYPD and, not surprisingly, it turns out that putting more cops where the most crime is happening has a remarkable deterrent effect on criminal activity. If this also results in more black people going to prison, well, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Crime is not just a statistic, however. Or, rather, statistics are just a compilation of separate events, and if you spend enough time watching police activity videos on YouTube, you begin to see distinct patterns of criminal behavior, which brings us to the case of Teronnie Austin Wade.

Wade is a lifelong career criminal. In 2014, when he was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to grand theft auto. In 2017, he was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to having a gun as a convicted felon. In 2020 — that is to say, almost immediately after his release from prison — Wade was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for a traffic violation. He was found in possession of a handgun, 22 bags of cocaine and the synthetic drug Flakka. At this point, it should have been apparent that Wade was at all times a member of the category “criminal.” At no time since he reached adulthood had Teronnie Wade attempted to make a legal living, but was instead constantly either (a) committing crimes or (b) serving time in prison.

A judge ordered Wade held on a bond of nearly $130,000, but for some reason, that was later lowered to $50,000, and the career felon was released from jail in Jacksonville, Florida. He failed to show up for an October 2021 court hearing, and a warrant was issued for the fugitive’s arrest. So it was that Teronnie Austin Wade next encountered law enforcement at 1 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. Five people were inside a sedan that made an illegal U-turn at a red light on Lem Turner Road in Jacksonville. When police pulled the car over, Wade was sitting in the front passenger seat. Officers noticed the smell of marijuana and began questioning the occupants:

Officer B then asks the passenger in the front seat to roll the window down.
“I don’t talk to the police, sir. I’m a passenger,” the man replies.
“OK,” the officer replies. “Can you just roll the window down for me? You don’t need to talk to me.”
“I’m a passenger, sir,” the man replies.
“No, hey, don’t go reaching in your pockets, alright?” Officer B said.
“I’m a passenger, sir,” the man repeats.
The officer tells the man it’s OK if he doesn’t want to talk to him, he just wants him to roll the window down.
“Got to talk to the driver, sir,” the man responds.
Officer A then walks back over to the white car to talk to the front seat passenger, who was wearing a bulletproof vest. The officer asks the man if he has a medical marijuana card.
The passenger replies, “Sir, I don’t answer any questions, sir.”

Now, when a police officer notices that a civilian is wearing a bulletproof vest, this naturally arouses suspicion. But before we get to that, let’s examine Wade’s claim that, because he is only a passenger in the vehicle, and not the driver, he doesn’t have to answer the officer’s question. Maybe this is true, in a narrow legal sense, but when you get pulled over in a vehicle that reeks of marijuana, you are then a suspect in a crime unrelated to mere traffic violations. And because these cops weren’t born yesterday — because they are experienced enough to recognize patterns of criminal behavior — there was a good reason why they wanted Teronnie Wade to roll down his window, namely to improve their ability to see inside the car, to see if there were any weapons present.

Criminal activity follows certain patterns, and while the driver of the car claimed that he and his friends had been on their way to Walmart — intending to get supplies to fix another car, only to discover that Walmart was closed — the police suspected there might have been another motive for this trip. Because why were there five guys in this one car, including a passenger who’s wearing a bulletproof vest? None of the officers recognized Wade as a convicted felon, but experienced cops tend to acquire a sixth sense, and so he was taken out of the vehicle, at which point the cop saw the extended magazine of a pistol sticking out of the back of Wade’s pants. Bulletproof vest + pistol = trouble.

What resulted was an “officer involved shooting” (OIS) incident. When officers attempted to handcuff Wade, he broke free and ran, then turned and fired at officers, who returned fire. More than 40 shots were fired in the gun battle, which ended with Wade seriously wounded. He survived, and was charged with two counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, plus possession of a weapon by a felon and resisting arrest. This time, he was held without bail.


This incident is an example of a pattern we have seen repeatedly in recent years — suspects with extensive criminal records, out on bail, committing crimes that cause people to ask, “Why wasn’t this guy behind bars?” Wade’s multiple previous convictions, including being a felon in possession of a firearm, should have been sufficient to convince any judge that this guy was too dangerous to be released after he was busted with drugs and a gun yet again in 2020. Yet there he was, riding around after midnight, wearing body armor and carrying a pistol with an extended magazine, a fugitive who had (predictably) violated terms of his bail.

How is it that the same liberals who bemoan “mass incarceration” also want to lecture us about “gun violence”? As if a policy of turning loose criminals has no impact on the crime rate? As if the gun itself — an inanimate object — were the cause of violence, rather than the criminals that liberals want to turn loose? It is difficult for me to believe that in Florida, which is certainly not a haven of liberalism, a guy who just got out of prison for a weapons charge could have gotten busted with a gun again, and then turned loose on bail. Where is “mass incarceration” when we really need it? This shootout in Jacksonville is, in a way, a microcosm of what’s gone wrong in our criminal justice system in recent years.

“I don’t talk to the police, sir,” says the career criminal, a fugitive with a warrant for his arrest, carrying a pistol with an extended magazine and wearing body armor while he’s riding around at 1 a.m.

This is what “social justice” looks like — armed criminals ready, willing and able to murder the police, because Black Lives Matter, you see.



One Response to “‘I Don’t Talk to the Police, Sir’”

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