Get out of the blog with your hands UP!

This post should make you afraid. Very afraid. Although if you are middle-aged or elderly AND white AND rich AND do not have children, you might be able to safely ignore it. Dale C. Carson is a former Miami police officer, former FBI agent and currently a criminal defense attorney. In Arrest-Proof Yourself he paints a very frightening picture of the current state of the criminal justice system, although not for the sorts of reasons you might expect.

According to Carson, violent and serious crime is down substantially due to mandatory sentencing laws such as ‘three strikes’ and police now actively enforce many laws that at one time would have been over-looked. Further he states that since the implementation of federalized criminal records databases the fact of an arrest, for anything, even if the charges are subsequently dismissed or you are acquitted of any wrong doing will follow you for life, no matter where you go. Where in an earlier era it would have been possible to get a clean start by moving away from the location where your criminal record remained on paper in a filing cabinet, you may find your career and other life opportunities severely restricted by the on-line arrest record that many employers will be able to view.

Carson goes on to state that while the police do a good job of catching serious criminals, they spend the vast bulk of their time enforcing misdemeanor laws, most often arresting poor and minority miscreants who pose no threat to the society and who’s minor mis-deeds would be more appropriately and economically handled as civil matters. He argues that this constant churning of the poor through the criminal justice system, which is largely paid for by the families of those arrested in the form of bail, attorney’s fees, fines and probation fees is the major reason for the persistence of poverty.

The bulk of the book is devoted to very specific advise on how to avoid contact with the police and what to say, do and not do if you do have contact with the police in order to minimize your chances of be arrested. Much of the advise is common sense and seemed both reasonable and obvious to me– drive the speed limit, don’t carry drugs, dress appropriately; if contacted by the police provide your name and offer your ID and then SHUT UP. Do not consent to a search of your vehicle.

Other parts of the advice seemed absurd but may in fact be appropriate: if you have a teenager who drives, Carson advises you to remove the back seat of the car, have the trunk lid welded shut and fill the glove compartment, cup holders, map holders and any other nooks and crannies in which drugs or other contraband might be hidden with a hardening foam and placing in the car a signed affidavit stating that you have altered the car in this way to insure that no drugs or contraband may be hidden in it and authorizing police to search the car, remove the foam and pop the trunk should they suspect that drugs or other contraband are hidden in the car. This struck me as way over the top, but honesty I don’t know. Fearfully Recommended.

In sharp contrast to the current day manual for surviving the criminal justice system that reads like a dystopian fantasy, today’s other book selection paints a very different picture of police work from an earlier era. Published in 1956, Cop Hater is the first of the 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain (a pseudonym for Evan Hunter). This series revolves around the police detectives in a particular precinct in an un-named fictitious city which is evocative of New York. The series hook is that the precinct itself is the central character with different officers taking the lead roles in each volume and stepping into the background but still visible in other installments. The wildly successful series is up to 50 books at this writing with additional volumes forthcoming.

A fairly standard mystery in the standard police procedural format, the principle appeal of the book to me was the 1950’s milieu and the older, less technological workings of the investigations of genuine bad guys and the absence of the of the excessively bureaucratic harassment and abuse of harmless miscreants that figured so prominently in the Carson book. Recommended.