Thursday, March 31, 2011

Words can hurt people


On March 21, 2011 I participated in an event organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMF) entitled “…But Words Can Hurt Me”. The event is part of The Movement: Political and Social Journeys series. The event was about the power of words, impact of language and racial and sexual epithets. Judging by the attendance and participation, it is a huge success. I write to thank Dr. McDaniels – Wilson (facilitator) and OMC (organizer) for giving us, the participants, much food for thought. Here are some of mine.

Words have meanings, good and bad. At Xavier U., as scholars and students, we are all wordsmiths or persons of letters. In as much as that is true, we need to be careful about when, how and what words we use, for what reasons and on what occasion.

The question I have is this: If “words can hurt” should we ban all hurtful (and hateful) words, such as the “F-----“, “N-----” and “B------”

If we accept “words can hurt” and also find it necessary to vent our anger under certain limited circumstance, the issue is what kind of words that best express our internal turmoil, frustration and anger? More pointedly, are we allowed to use any words intending to hurt others, such as “shame on you.” Alternatively, does saying nasty thing to others (intending to hurt) in a nice way (sarcasm) makes people feel better?

If all hateful “words can (and will) hurt” and if we really want to get rid of the use of such words, the option left is to educate people not to hate. This can be done by improve understanding and heighten toleration. The first can be achieved by better communication. Counter-intuitively, action does not speak louder than words. Action is usually obvious, but intention is always hidden. As to tolerance, I have this advice. When I was a karate sensei I always tell my students, when offended: “take a deep breath, count till ten, and walk away.”

Finally, if the message here is that words (being hurtful) matters, and we should be careful with our words, then we should be as careful with hurtful words as much as feel good ones. If it is inappropriate to use hurtful words (at least when they are not due), neither should we use complimentary words for the undeserving, right?

Should we call United States a peace loving country when we started a war every two or three years and now engage in four armed conflicts at one time? Or, how can the United States call Lyba rebels a liberating force of change when we hardly know anything about them?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hong Kong Police History

Studying Hong Kong Police History

The investigation into Hong Kong Police (HKP) suffers from the usual problems of lack of source materials and scholarly interests. As a result, not much has been written on Hong Kong Police, still less on HKP history. Given the storied history of Hong Kong as a colony and importance of HKP on colonial administration (1941 – 1997), it is surprising that there are so few interest and effort, to explicate HKP’s political role in colonial administration and document its impact on social development. Of those few that are available, they are hardly accurate and complete. They fail to tell the readers the whole story of HKP, especially what the HKP to the Hong Kong people is all about.

Historiography is about discovering and interpretation of obscured and scattered facts, not rendering of reality. It is story telling by victors (gun), elites (rich) and learned (pen), with a given focus, framework and perspective. Thus far, the study of HKP history the focus has been on HKP as a law and order institution. The framework is one of colonialism. The perspective is from the top down (HK government) and afar (England). The voices of the people of Hong Kong on policing are rarely if ever taken into account. Nor are there any HKP history built upon the testimonials on frontline (Chinese) officers.

An institutional history of HKP written from above (administration), afar (political) and aloof (economics) has no hope of capturing the "Spirit of the Age" or Zeitgeist. View in this way, HKP history is both subjective and constructed, narrative about ruler and ruled, corruption and progress, not what Hong Kong people perceived and received their police, in the past.

In investigating into HKP history there is a need to draw a clear distinction between studying HKP as a political instrumentality of control or suppression vs. social institution for control or service. For the first 100 years (1844 to 1944), HKP knows the first, not the second, from ether the Hong Kong government, British Parliament or Hong Kong people’s perspective.

Finally, it must be realized that investigating into HKP institutionally is not the same as studying policing in Hong Kong, functionally. In Chinese society from antiquity, police as n Weberian type of formal, bureaucratic, legal, professional and coercive organization/institution of social control did not exist. Policing (social control, order maintenance) is conducted informally and pervasively, with education, surveillance and sanction, by family and community with the endorsement and support of the state. Thus observed, studying HKP as a political – social control institution historically, while a valuable and interesting intellectual exercise, will till us little about how policing – social control of Hong Kong people is conducted or realized.

In all, the study of how Hong Kong policing work requires the studying of much more than how the HKP work as an institution.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wrongful convictions - righful compensation

Wrongful conviction and rightful exoneration

A person has been convicted of a crime and sent to prison. Later he is found to be innocent (IP) after all. Should the IP be able to sue the government to obtain the compensation for time in jail, - reputation squandered, years gone and money never made. For example, in 2004, Wilton Dedge from Florida spend 22 years in prison for a rape and burglary that he did not commit. After he was exonerated, he was awarded 2 million as a settlement by the state, only after a private bill was passed. (

There are two issues in to the case. Should IP be able to sue the government? Should IP be able to get compensation? They are separate and distinct inquiry.

First, should IP be able to sue? Under normal circumstances, barring foul play, the common law afford the prosecutor an absolute immunity in doing his work. “When a prosecutor performs “advocative” conduct, that is, he “act[s] within the scope of his duties in initiating and pursuing a criminal prosecution,” Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409, 410 (1976), he is absolutely immune from suit”, including whether and how to conduct a prosecution.

Second, should a IP receive compensation for wrongful conviction and punishment?
A legal commentator has made this remark:

“This would be a fascinating issue to take on in a research article. Which mechanism is better suited to provide appropriate compensation -- private litigation by the exonerated prisoner or compensation scheduled by the legislature? Might there best be a hybrid of private litigation and a minimum amount of scheduled compensation? Ought there to be, instead, a governmental commission to evaluate each case individually? And how ought damages to be determined? (Law & Econ Prof Blog, December 7, 2007).

The Innocent Project thinks the wrongfully convicted should be compensated by law, without further action on their own. I agree.

“Those proven to have been wrongfully convicted through postconviction DNA testing spend, on average, 12 years behind bars. The agony of prison life and the complete loss of freedom are only compounded by the feelings of what might have been, but for the wrongful conviction. Deprived for years of family and friends and the ability to establish oneself professionally, the nightmare does not end upon release. With no money, housing, transportation, health services or insurance, and a criminal record that is rarely cleared despite innocence, the punishment lingers long after innocence has been proven. States have a responsibility to restore the lives of the wrongfully convicted to the best of their abilities.” (

I am quick to add the follow reasons why the government should pay comepsation for IPs imprisonment/punishment:

(1) IP is found innocent in a court of law. The mistake made must be recognized, publicly: legally, morally and economically, especially in a legalistic (constitutional democracy), moralistic (Christian nation), capitalistic society (money talk), like ours.

(2) The state benefited from rigorous criminal prosecutions, in deterring criminals, in reducing fear. The more (and more aggressive) the prosecution, the more criminals are kept in bound. The more (and more successful) prosecution, the more the sense of
safety and security.

(3) Criminal prosecution or justice administration has hidden costs, including cost of collateral damages. The more the society aggressive prosecute the “war on crime” the more we can expect erroneous conviction due to bungled prosecution, through carelessness (e.g., lack of systematic and comprehensive investigation), mistakes (e.g., mis-identification, wrong DNA report) or fraud (e.g., fabricated or hiding of evidence). This applies equally to war of all kinds, “war on terror” comes to mind.

(4) The payouts to IP would (and should) reflect the true cost of justice (mal)administration. Compensation to IP would show the taxpayers that justice is neither free nor cheap.

(5) The public – legislator – state can make better judgment in criminal justice system design, policy and operations if the true costs of running the criminal justice system are recognized and documented.

(6) The law enforcers (police, prosecutor, judges) must be held accountable to the proper execution of the law. The monetary awards an now be used as a yardstick for poor justice administration, per individual or office, for institutional comparison or personal accountability purposes.

(7) The state should be as aggressive in pursuing criminals as it is in clearing IP names.

(8) IP should be made whole, automatically and completely, i.e., return to the position before the conviction, without doing more. This means that IP should compensated for shame, economic loss, pain and suffering behind bars.

(9) The state has the duty and responsibility to fix a wrongful conviction, as part of justice administration. To pursue justice is to right ALL wrongs by the criminals as well as with the state.

(10) The public should be responsible for paying for “mistakes” made in the delivery of justice. The IP should not bear the burden of miscarriage of justice.


Court: Exonerated inmate doesn't get $14 million March 28, 2011

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has overturned a $14 million judgment given to a former death row inmate who accused New Orleans prosecutors of withholding evidence in order to help convict him of murder.

John Thompson had successfully sued the district attorney's office, arguing that former District Attorney Harry Connick showed deliberate indifference by not providing adequate training for assistant district attorneys.

Prosecutors did not turn over a crime lab report that indicated Thompson's blood type did not match the perpetrator in an attempted robbery in 1985. Prosecutors used that conviction to get the death penalty in another case Thompson was involved in.

Prosecutors normally have immunity for their actions while working, but Thompson had convinced a jury there had not been enough training on evidence handling. The court overturned that decision.

Here is the investigation that crack the case for the defense.

John HollwayUpdated , “This week at the Supreme Court: Can a man exonerated of capital murder sue the prosecutor who convicted him?” Slate, Oct. 5, 2010.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Speed Trap?

How speeding law should be enforced?

A question is often raised as how to enforce the traffic law, fairly.

Currently speed traps are put in place by traffic cops, at will and based on experience. Since there are more speeders than officers not everyone is ticketed. This led to concern with discrimination.

Who and how we should ticket motorists is the aim of this blog.


There are some general speeding enforcement principles to agree on before we engage in the discussion.

First, I assume that no one is against enforcing traffic code to reduce accident, and penalized deserving violators.

Second, I assume that we cannot and should not be ticketing everyone who violates the law, say 60 MPH on a 55 MPH zone.

Third, we should only punish speeders who speed much more than the average, e.g., everyone doing 65/55 MPH you are doing 80/55 MPH.

Fourth, we should not ticket only those people we do not like, e.g., out of town people or disrespectful drivers.

Fifth, we do not want government officials to use traffic fine to mend budget holes, e.g., traffic quota.

Sixth, the traffic speeding enforcement scheme is agree upon and reviewable by public, e.g., “Why ticket me when others are speeding more than me.”


Traffic speeding law should only be enforced, if and only if:

(1) The car violates the speeding law.
(2) The registered owner of the car at the time can be identified.
(3) Not every speeder should be fined, only the most dangerous and serious speeders should be penalized.
(4) Speeding tickets should be issued without discrimination and universally.

The best system to enforce speeding law universally to all and discriminatory to the deserving is by selective enforcement:

First, all speeding cars will be tracked by GPS or electronic cameras. (The LEGAL consideration).

Second, set an administrative speed limit to reflect road conditions to avoid danger (The PRUDENTIAL consideration)

Third, set normative speed limit by averaging the speed of the drivers who used the road. (The ROAD NORM consideration).

Four, set a quota on how many tickets a city can afford to give in any one year, month, day. (The RESOURCE consideration)

All cars will be cited for violation if: they speed in violation of the law (see LEGAL consideration), they speed dangerously (see PUDENTIAL consideration), they speed more so than others (see ROAD NORM consideration) and the government has the resource to do so (See RESOURCE consideration).

The above proposed solution to traffic control, if computerized, would solve all the problems we confront in speeding enforcement. The system is legal, fair, efficient and effective in punishing the speeders that should be punished because they drive dangerous and beyond what most people would do at the time.

What so you think?

I-95 cameras snap speeders, spark controversy

By BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press Bruce Smith, Associated Press – Sun Mar 27, 2:52 pm ET

RIDGELAND, S.C. – As Interstate 95 sweeps past this small town along South Carolina's coastal plain, motorists encounter cameras that catch speeding cars, the only such devices on the open interstate for almost 2,000 miles from Canada to Miami.
The cameras have nabbed thousands of motorists, won accolades from highway safety advocates, attracted heated opposition from state lawmakers and sparked a federal court challenge.
Ridgeland Mayor Gary Hodges said the cameras in his town about 20 miles north of the Georgia line do what they are designed to do: slow people down, reduce accidents and, most importantly, save lives.
But lawmakers who want to unplug them argue the system is just a money-maker and amounts to unconstitutional selective law enforcement.
"We're absolutely shutting it down," said state Sen. Larry Grooms, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Earlier this month, Ridgeland Police Officer David Swinehamer sat in a van beneath an overpass as a radar gun in a thicket of electronic equipment outside clocked passing vehicles: 60, 72, 73, 67.
Then a Mercedes with South Carolina tags sped by going 83 — 13 mph over the speed limit. A camera fired and pictures of the tag and driver appeared on a monitor in the van. The unaware motorist continued north, but could expect a $133 ticket in the mail in a couple of weeks.
"I just don't think it's right," said James Gain of Kissimmee, Fla., one of the lawsuit plaintiffs who got a ticket last year while driving between his home and Greensboro, N.C. "If you get a ticket you should be stopped by an officer, know you have been stopped and have an opportunity to state your case."
Gain paid the fine, saying it was less expensive than driving six hours back to Ridgeland for court.
Motorists do get a warning. As they enter town, a blue and white sign says they are entering an area with "Photo-Radar Assisted Speed Enforcement."
Speed cameras are used in 14 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The only other place with a camera on I-95 is in a Maryland work zone.
The cameras have sparked controversy in other places around the nation as well.
Last year, Arizona ended a two-year program with cameras on Phoenix-area expressways and other roads, in part because of perceptions they were being used to raise revenue.
But Cedar Rapids, Iowa, began using cameras last summer on busy I-380. Police there said during the first month of operation, violations dropped 62 percent.
Hodges said since Ridgeland, working with iTraffic Safety, became the first community in South Carolina to deploy cameras in August, motorists are also driving slower along the 7 miles of I-95 passing through the town limits.
From January to July of 2010, there were 55 crashes and four fatalities. From August through the end of last month, there were 38 crashes and no deaths. And since the cameras started operating until last month, there has been almost a 50 percent drop in the number of motorists driving 81 or more.
"You can't argue with the results and the only reason you would be upset is because you are speeding," said Tom Crosby, a spokesman for AAA Carolinas. "All it's doing is enforcing the law and even then you have to be doing over 80 to get a ticket."
Police use driver's license photos or physical descriptions from licenses such as a driver's hair, eye color and weight to identify the motorist. No ticket is issued if there is any question about the driver's identity.
Grooms, the legislator, said since not all speeders are ticketed, it's selective enforcement. He added that while the system may issue a ticket, it doesn't get violators off the road.
"You are driving down the road at 100 mph or you are driving down the road drunk. The camera takes your picture and three weeks later you get a ticket in the mail. There is no element of public safety," he said.
Grooms said the cameras are only a money-maker for the town. Hodges discounts that, saying the town just wants to recover the cost of police and ambulance service for millions of motorists passing through. Two-thirds of ticket money goes to the state, he said.
The town has about $20,000 invested in the van. The contractor, iTraffic Safety, pays the other costs in return for a share of ticket revenue.
While state law prohibits issuing tickets solely on photographic evidence, the mayor said that doesn't apply in Ridgeland because an officer is also there to see the speeder from the van.
But the state Senate, in a 40-0 vote, recently gave approval to changing that and banning speeding tickets from photographs whether the camera is attended or not. The law would also require tickets to be handed directly to a motorist.
The federal lawsuit contends it's unconstitutional to send motorists tickets by mail and to addresses outside town limits.
Ridgeland is one of almost 90 jurisdictions nationwide using cameras to nab speeders and "to our knowledge, every single one of them mails the tickets," Hodges said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calls speed cameras "a very effective countermeasure" to crashes but said they should supplement, not replace, officers patrolling. Ridgeland still uses officers on the interstate.
Hodges is not surprised by opposition to the cameras, particularly with South Carolina's history of motorists' rights. South Carolina was one of the last states to enact a .08 blood-alcohol level for drunken driving and took a long time to pass a primary seatbelt law.
"We went through similar things when breathalyzers came out. We went through similar things when radar guns came out," Hodges said. "It's the same type of mentality."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why there is little (no) looting in Japan after the earthquake?

Why is there no looting in Japan after the earth quake?

People all over the world observed, with admiration and envy, how orderly and disciplined the Japanese people behave, after the earthquake of March 2011. Specifically, during the national crisis Japan does not appear to have any crime (looting, robbing) and disorder (cutting in line, water riots) of any sort, with little police presence.

The question is why?

As a criminologist, I think crime is everywhere. Japan is no exception, crisis or no crisis. In essence Japanese are humans, just like Americans. Still, comparatively, it is a fact that US, and by extension (U.K., France) has more crimes than Japan (or Hong Kong, China). If there is any doubt just look at murder rates, the most stable and reliable crime data we have.

For example, murder rate in New York is 778/19.5 million in 2009 (39.9/M) vs. Japan 1097/127 million in 2009 (8.64/M). New York murder rate is going down from 836 to 778, or 58 (6.9%). Japan murder rate is dropping by 200 (18.3%). More importantly, New York has more cold-blooded murders due to disputes over interests by strangers than Japan as a result hot under the collar killing to settle family feuds by related persons. (This is changing: work place killing dropped from 104 to 61, relatives/friends killing dropped from 317 to 254, between 1985 to 2009.)

What are the reasons? There are two:

First, Japan teaches her people to have "self-control", i.e., doing the right thing even when no one is around. In the US we do exactly the opposite. In the US we teach people that we are born free. People should do one wish to do, until they are stopped, or caught in the act. In essence Japanese seek internal control enforced with shame and Americans prefer external control enforced with prisons.

Second, Japan is a collective society. Japanese teach their people to look out for each other, to the point of sacrificing (deferring) ones self-interests to enhance collective welfare. On the other hand Americans teach their people to look out for himself/herself, at the expense of the group. The principle here is individual rights trump collective welfare.

Which society do you want to live in?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chinese policing spending - budget

How much is China spending on her police? The answer is no one knows for sure. The following reported budget figures on Chinese internal security (IS) funding are not only for IS policing per se? As such the media report (has the potential) to mislead more so than it informs.

The crucial question here, for analysis purpose, is not how much China spends on IS, but what IS means in budgetary terms. For example, in China the PLA (People's Liberation Army), PAP (People's Armed Police and MPS (Ministry of Public Security) all assume IS "policing" functions.

The other question is how such IS budgeted item is spent. Chinese police is in a reform mode, and has been so for the last 30 years. In the last 10 years MPS, as with PAP and PLA, has invested a lot of money in capacity building, from technology enhancement to personnel training. We (outsiders) have little understanding of how and how much is being spent to modernized Chinese policing, including IS capacity building and operational expenditure.

The final question to be asked is whether reported IS funding includes provincial/local budget. Policing in China, as in the US, is a local affairs. It is largely locally funded, and managed, with central financial supplement and strategic direction. Technically IS is a central policing function, e.g., civil disturbance. But mass incidents are mostly local affairs to start with, and in many cases arrested before they become national concerns.


Kam C. Wong, Police Reform in China (Taylor and Francis, Sept. 15, 2011).
Kam C. Wong, Chinese Policing: History and Reform (Peter Lang, 2009).

Chinese spending on internal policing outstrips defense budget, ministry says
Bloomberg, March 22, 2011

China spent more on its internal police force than on its armed forces last year and plans to do the same this year, as the government deployed security forces around the country to control growing social unrest.

China spent 548.6 billion yuan (US$83.5 billion) on internal security last year, 6.7 percent more than budgeted and a 15.6 percent increase over 2009, the Chinese Ministry of Finance said in a report released on Saturday. Last year, China spent 533.5 billion yuan on national defense, or 0.3 percent more than budgeted, according to the ministry.

The surge in public security spending comes as so-called mass incidents, everything from strikes to riots and demonstrations, are on the increase.

There were at least 180,000 such incidents last year, twice as many as in 2006, Sun Liping (孫立平), a professor of sociology at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said in a Feb. 25 article in the Economic Observer.

Zhou Yongkang (周永康), a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee who oversees the country’s public security forces, said in a Feb. 21 article in the People’s Daily, the party’s official mouthpiece, that the government must “defuse social conflicts and disputes just as they germinate.”

This year, the government plans to spend 624.4 billion yuan on public security, a 13.8 percent increase from last year, and 601.2 billion yuan on defense, a 12.7 percent increase, according to the finance ministry.

The announcement comes days after hundreds of police deployed in cities across the country following an online call for rallies inspired by uprisings in the Middle East.

Like national defense, China spends less on its police than the US, where federal, state and local governments spent a combined US$213.7 billion on police, prisons and the judicial system in 2005, the last year for which figures are available, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice.

US spending on the justice system in 2005 was 1.7 percent of that year’s GPD. China’s announced spending on public safety was 1.4 percent of last year’s GDP

Monday, March 21, 2011

Economics of law - Who pay for justice lost and found?

I have long argued that law and justice is not free. Society (people really) must pay for the opportunity costs of law and justice. The costs of justice should not be ignored, still less be borne by a few, e.g, "innocent" suspects or "wrongfully" convicted criminals.

Under suspicion: Millions paid to former suspects
By The Associated Press The Associated Press – Mon Mar 21, 5:21 am ET

In recent years the federal government or its contractors have paid millions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed by people who say they were unfairly detained or harassed because of terrorism fears. The payments include:
• $2 million in 2006 to Portland, Ore., lawyer Brandon Mayfield, who was jailed after FBI agents mistakenly linked him to a fingerprint found after the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
• $2.5 million in attorney fees and damages, ordered by a judge who found that the U.S. government failed to get court warrants before wiretapping the calls of an Oregon charity accused of supporting terrorists.
• $1.8 million in 2006 and 2009 to seven men detained for months in New York and New Jersey shortly after Sept. 11. Other plaintiffs in the case are still pursuing it in court, and their lawyers say it could eventually involve about 1,200 former detainees.
• $250,000 in 2009 to Abdallah Higazy, jailed for 34 days after an aviation radio was found in the safe of a hotel room he was occupying near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. The radio had been left in the room by a previous guest, a pilot.
• $240,000 paid to Raed Jarrar by the Transportation Security Administration and JetBlue Airways after the TSA forced him to cover a shirt with Arabic script before boarding a flight.
• $225,000 paid by the San Francisco Police Department and a TSA contractor to Rahinah Ibrahim, who was detained at the San Francisco International Airport and lost her U.S. visa after her name appeared on a no-fly list. The Department of Homeland Security is still fighting her lawsuit.