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July 14, 2004

Messing With "Them"

The police ride-along was fascinating. It was just what it sounds like—I rode along w/an officer as he did his daily duties. It wasn't a very exciting or busy day, but even the routine calls were interesting since I'd never been on any call at all before. We responded to:

  • A shoplifting call where a woman allegedly stuffed over $100 worth of steak into her purse and walked out of a grocery store. The officer said he recently busted someone who pushed an entire cartfull of merchandise out to her car w/out paying for it. If you're going to shoplift, do it in style. (But note: If the value of the stuff you're taking exceeds a certain amount—$200 in our jursidiction—you'll be charged w/a felony instead of a misdemeanor). No arrest; suspect long gone.
  • A call about a suspicious person where we found a guy sleeping in the middle of a restaurant parking lot, just laying on the asphalt between parked cars. The guy said he had a mental disability and was on his way to see his counsellor when he just got distracted and decided he wanted a warm place to sleep. Apparently the asphalt fit the bill. Very strange. No arrest—the cops were pretty nice to the guy.
  • A call about a woman asking a parking cop where she could buy crack. I kid you not. When we got there and talked to her, it seemed fairly clear she was high. No arrest; just threats.
  • A call about a 13-year-old boy threatening a 9-year-old boy to get the younger kid to give him money. What can the police do about this? Next to nothing, but that doesn't stop them from trying. No arrest; just threats.
So no, nothing too exciting. We also spent close to two hours filing a report (fun! not.), and lots of time driving around "messing with" homeless people and people who like to hang out on park benches and street corners.

I have some thoughts on the experience that I don't have time to share, including the awesome technology at the disposal of the police (they've got laptops in every cruiser that are always online), as well as the way police dehumanize the people they "mess with" or otherwise interact with. I think perhaps my cop's world is divided into three kinds of people: Us (cops), Citizens (people who aren't cops and aren't criminals), and Them (criminals and poor people who are basically criminals waiting to commit crimes). After the ride-along, one of my fellow interns asked how it was and I said the cop I was riding with seemed like a nice guy. She responded by saying she's not going to take a ride-along because it seems like everyone who comes back from one has a better opinion of the cops. I suggested that might not be such a bad thing. Her response:

Why is it ok for the cops to dehumanize the people they arrest so they'll be able to do their jobs easier, but it's not ok for me to dehumanize the cops in order to do my job [as a defense attorney] easier?

It's a great question. But wouldn't it be nice if we could figure out a system where nobody had to dehumanize anyone else in order to sleep at night?

Posted 07:25 AM | Comments (4) | 1L summer

MT 3.0D1

Another update of Movable Type is here, but it doesn't appear to have what I've come to want most in the couple of weeks I've been using MT 3.0: Better ways to deal with comment spam.

Right now, MT 3.0 lets you ban comments from certain IP addresses, but you have do do so one comment/IP address at a time. This requires multiple steps to both ban the IP address and delete the spam comments. MT does give you a list of all recent comments w/ a checkbox next to each comment, but the only thing you can do w/ that checkbox is delete the comments.

This is a good start, but what I really need is the ability to list all comments (or the last 20-50), check a box next to those that are spam, then click a "ban these IP addresses and delete comments" button. Also, I should be able to ban comments from a certain email address, as well as comments that contain certain URLs. These options were available in MT 2.6 via MT-Blacklist, and it seems a real shame that users should have to sacrifice this functionality in order to upgrade their MT installation (and pay for the privilege!). Yes, MT 3.0 offers TypeKey as a way to deal w/comment spam, but I don't have time to screw w/all my templates to add TypeKey functionality, and I'm not sure I'd want to even if I did. MT-Blacklist works well; I hope a) its developer will make it compatible w/MT 3.0, or b) SixApart will build it more completely into MT 3.x. Please?

Posted 06:04 AM | meta-blogging

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