News Roundup

The news story I pondered the most this week was this AP article entitled Watering While Black. It explores the arrest of a Black pastor in Alabama who was tending a neighbor’s flowers while the neighbor was away. A third neighbor called the police, seemingly failing to recognize the pastor even though he had lived on the same street for years. Officers responded and soon got sideways with the pastor. The whole situation fell apart through a series of faulty inferences and failed communications that put me in mind of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Talking to Strangers. Read on for more news.

Kenly fires town manager. Regular readers know that the entire police department in Kenly resigned recently, with some officers claiming that the relatively new town manager had created a “hostile environment.” Kenly has now parted ways with the manager, with the mayor indicating that she just wasn’t a good fit for the town. WRAL has more here.

Special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago? Former President Trump has asked a federal judge to appoint a “special master” to review the documents seized by the FBI from his Mar-a-Lago home pursuant to a search warrant. The idea seems to be to ensure that the FBI does not have highly personal items like diaries or documents that are subject to the attorney-client privilege. The Justice Department says that the FBI has already reviewed the documents, and that the appointment of a special master would needlessly delay the investigation. This AP article quotes the judge, who was herself appointed by then-President Trump, asking Justice Department lawyers “what, really, is the harm?” and suggesting that she is likely to agree with former President Trump’s request.

“Fog reveal” and a new way for police to track suspects’ movements. WRAL has this AP story about a product called “Fog Reveal” that apparently uses “advertising identification numbers . . . culled from popular cellphone apps such as Waze, Starbucks and hundreds of others that target ads based on a person’s movements and interests” to construct “patterns of life” and other location information. The information seems to be sold to police departments on a subscription basis, with the Greensboro Police Department identified in the story as having once been a customer.

National story with a North Carolina connection about prisoners being charged the costs of incarceration. WRAL also has this story about so-called pay-to-stay laws that require prisoners to pay the costs of their incarceration. The story begins with a Connecticut woman who may lose her house to pay off a bill of over $83,000 connected to her two-plus years in prison on drug charges. According to the story, all but two states have such laws – though it says that a few states, “such as North Carolina, have laws on the books but almost never use them.”

Guns, gun violence, gun control, pretty much everything related to guns was in the news this week. This AP story notes that the focus on mass shootings can obscure the steady daily toll of gun homicides. The homicide rate has spiked nationally over the past several years, especially in large cities. The story starts in Portland, Oregon, where murders are up over 200% over the past few years.

Some have suggested that red flag laws are part of the solution to gun violence but this AP story notes that in many places, such laws are little used. In Chicago, “amid more than 8,500 shootings resulting in 1,800 deaths since 2020, the law was used there just four times.” The data further down in the article indicate that in other areas, like Florida, the laws have seen considerable use.

Finally, pro-gun-control jurisdictions have been considering how to respond to the Supreme Court’s recent Bruen decision regarding the right to carry firearms outside the home. This post at the Volokh Conspiracy notes that New York City has decided to ban firearms in Times Square, seemingly based in part on a hypothetical discussed during the Bruen oral argument. The post observes that Times Square as defined for the purposes of the firearm ban may vary somewhat compared to how some folks have traditionally defined Times Square.

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