Restorative Justice and Murder

Cahill apparently had barged into a modest home where he knew no one, with cocaine and alcohol in his system. And although the shooting has been ruled “justified” by police, to his loved ones, that finding doesn’t equate to an adequate explanation.

If an intoxicated and belligerent stranger broke into my home, I too would be inclined to forcefully evict them. If I was intoxicated and had head trauma from being beaten in the street, I might seek shelter where I could find it and be in poor condition to explain myself. If my brother died suddenly, I would be sad and want to know what happened. This is the Methodology of Universal Love; considering each point of view without prejudice and seeing the validity and truth in them. My favorite description comes through Charles Eisenstein, “Love is seeing through the illusions which separate us”.

New Orleans police have never revealed his identity because they consider the shooter in a justified homicide to be a victim.

Here the New Orleans police are acting to protect the shooter, out of fear that he may be the target of retaliatory actions. There is no love in this action for those who grieve Cahill’s death as their perspective and needs go unaddressed. And in fact there is no love for the shooter, who has only his gun collection and a poorly guarded secret as defense against the unknown. It is hard to know his mind, but I know when I hide from my fears I give them strength. Even the police who were involved before and after may hold trauma from this event.

“No matter how much we wish we could turn back the clock and stop this senseless tragedy, our sense of helplessness lingers, and nothing we can do will bring him back,” said Ken Cahill

This helplessness and fear need not linger, because there is an ancient practice interpreted as modern programs with an excellent track record of addressing the needs of all parties to traumatic events such as this. The essence of it is to gather these parties together with public witness and a moderator, and tell the many-sided story. Sometimes agreements come of this which ease fears and sooth wounds, sometimes there is no need, and I have never heard of a case where it was less effective than fear and punishment alone. In South Africa it was called the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission“. Here in Boulder County the sheriff’s office hosts the small but potent Restorative Justice program, run by the tireless volunteer Jennifer Quilling.

I believe the Cahills, friends of Joe, the New Orleans police, the shooter and his family would all benefit greatly from participating in such a process. So too would those of us who read this newspaper article, and wondered “Is that it? Is that how the story ends?”. Let us tell some stories, and write a new ending to this one.

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Safety Check

For the third consecutive year, the University of Colorado Boulder will spend upwards of $100,000 to close campus on April 20 in its effort to smother anything resembling a 4/20 marijuana smokeout, which the university says has become too disruptive.

This year’s 4/20 marijuana folk holiday falls on Easter Sunday, a joyous Christian holiday welcoming Spring and rebirth, with roots in the Babylonian holiday celebrating Ishtar (“ees ter”), goddess of war, fertility and sex. It’s going to be a potent day. Campus officals, fearing reckless behavior,  are trying to prevent a celebration of what just last year was a protest. But it’s a valid fear; People, especially inexperienced people, will sometimes handle their medicine poorly.

There is a wonderful possibility hidden in this crisis, where both need and fear are satisfied. We will educate the inexperienced and guide them to responsible behavior. Rather than punishing future misbehavior, we will teach mindful indulgence.

From California surfer culture comes the concept of a “Safety Check”; speaking to a fellow on the beach you declare the present moment and space to be sacred, speak only beautiful and kind words, and smoke a joint. A similar ceremony could be created to acknowledge both the responsibility and bliss The Herb delivers.

Picture the sheriff, the chancellor, a Rastafarian and Catholic priest introducing the 420 celebration on Farrand Field, each with their own caution and blessing. There is a moment of silence, a moment of noise, and a moment of shared experience. I’d like to be there. Wouldn’t you?

In the News

There is a brief announcement of my candidacy in Longmont’s Times-Call which was also carried in Boulder’s Daily Camera. It is what I meant to convey, except for the part about focusing on justice for victims. When someone is injured my first priority is not going to be to avenge their injury, but rather to make sure they’re ok. I want the perpetrator to be ok too, even if that means putting them in time-out for awhile.

I suppose this all makes me look soft on crime, and in terms of individuals it is indeed my goal to avoid punishment and facilitate their wellness in the world. In terms of crime there are many that are being ignored by the justice system in Boulder County that I will pay close and loud attention to. This will mean challenging elements of the oil industry, the Federal government, the prison industry, and the banking sector. I am ready to do this, if you are ready to let me.

Happy

Wave of Action


I’ll be at the SW corner of Broadway and Canyon from 5PM to 7PM today, Friday April 4th, 2014, acknowledging the Occupy movement’s #waveofaction.

I protested the Iraq War in 2003, as did much of the world. It was, to the best of my knowledge, the largest global protest ever. And it had no effect. The Occupy movement has been portrayed as in incoherent protest. Luckily there is much more to it than that. They are creating new solutions and living them out. If you want to know more don’t wait for mainstream media to inform you. But in this age of the Internet Apocalypse, the answer is just a few clicks away.

I lived in South Korea for part of the 1980s when there were frequent protests and riots over the military dictatorship. For eight years clouds of tear gas drifted across Seoul and other cities, until the people’s will won out and previously jailed and hunted opposition leaders rose to power. Looks like a painful way to bring about change, and I’m looking for a gentler approach. It’s easy for protesters to see police and government as oppressors, and to view the protestors as enemies of social order. We’re all in this together, and I believe through patience and respect we will find mutually acceptable and effective solutions to the many crises we face.

But the next time Dick Cheney suggests we start a war, I’m getting a court order and putting him in the time-out room.

Non-Violence and Dog Poop

Boulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs with city-issued green tags that could be saved for later comparison to waste found on open space.

The prevailing wisdom of dog-ownership is that when you are out on a walk and your dog poops, the moral and legally correct thing to do is place it in a plastic bag, carry it home, and place it in another plastic bag to be sent to the landfill with all the other individually wrapped dog poops. This has always struck me as environmentally unsustainable, and humiliating for both the owner and dog.

From a law-enforcement perspective, making dog waste illegal is applying the methodology of punishment to force people to perform this humiliating and environmentally harmful act at the point of a gun. The fact that the City of Boulder is seeking to escalate the War Against Poop is a sure indicator that this approach has already failed.

From a genetic standpoint, DNA testing is not nearly as accurate as is popularly believed. Genetic drift, epigenetic materials, sample contamination and the small number of target genes used in DNA testing leads to a surprisingly high number of false negatives and false positives, which increase with the size of the database. I experienced this firsthand while assisting with the development of Ibis Bioscience’s PlexID system; those who ran themselves against the partial FBI database available would often get 5 to 10 positive matches, despite not being in the database. There were cases of individual’s hair sample not matching their blood, due to genetic drift. Prosecution of dog owners under this system might turn out to be expensive and inefficient.

It is also worth noting that the database would only contain samples from “green tagged” dogs. In other words, only the most responsible dogs and dog owners would be considered in the pool of poop suspects.

I would like to propose the possibility that dog-owners are in fact responsible individuals who care for their animals and environment. That it is unnecessary and ineffective to punish them into acceptable behavior, and that there are gentler ways to achieve better results. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Provide biodegradable bags at trailheads and even along the trail.
  2. Expand the number of trash cans on and near trails.
  3. Ignore it; animals have been pooping in the woods for a long time, and it seems to work out ok.
  4. Have the rangers pick up unattended poop; it’s probably less hastle and paperwork than writing tickets and hiring extra prosecutors and poop investigation services. Also, the poop gets picked up.
  5. Put a bounty on poop; say 25¢/pound. This being Boulder people could register as official poop-pickers, pick up serialized buckets, drop them off at conveniently located deposit points (then sent to compost), and receive a check at the end of each time-period. There may be some unintended consequences, but again, the poop would actually get picked up. And it would be handled in an environmentally responsible manner, unlike the escalating punishment plan.

There will be a public hearing about this on Tuesday, April 1 at 6PM. On the off-chance that this is not a well-constructed April Fool’s Day prank by the generally sober Boulder City Council, I plan to attend and present some of these ideas.

 

On The Foot of a Great Cottonwood..

Fork in the Road

When I speak of love I am referring to what I call “Universal Love”. It is selfish and introspective, because you seek to understand/fulfill yourself and your needs. It is compassionate, you try to understand others and their needs. It is all-encompassing, viewing the moment from as many points of view as possible.

When you understand everything and act in the interest of everyone, there is nothing to resist you. The action is welcomed into being.

When I say I will run the frackers out of town, it sounds forceful and against a powerful interest. But the frackers are not bad people. They do not wish to poison the air and burn the sky. But they do.

They are good people doing things they feel helpless to resist. I will help them stop. I will help them rechart their life. Perhaps the CEO will pursue gardening instead. Perhaps the rig worker can move on to a fulfilling career as a romance novelist.

Life does not End when a job does. It Begins.

Playing Catch Up

The Fall and Winter of Boulder County have been a torrent of events which began with the September floods, right after my first post. The sheriff’s citizen’s academy has been completed, with some unavoidable delays. It has been an excellent education and I recommend the class highly. Each week brings a new topic and set of deputies,  who all bring a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication to their particular specialty. And commitment, I don’t think I spoke to anyone with less than fifteen years in the Boulder County sheriff’s office. The classes also serve as recruitment for career and volunteer positions, seeing how well this non-interview interview works I’m surprised this method is not more commonly used.
I took extensive notes, and hope to post some as time permits. In the meantime I will blog on timely topics and campaign details.

First Day of Class

Today I attended the first day of the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Citizen’s Academy. The class was closer to the 25 maximum than the email list indicated. We were asked to introduce ourselves. I introduced myself as a general contractor, there because I intended to run for Sheriff next year. About half the class was there because they are considering a career in law-enforcement. The other half were hipsters and scientist, some quite old, all sharp and polite. The first group’s questions were framed from the perspective of a prospective officer, e.g. “how do you qualify for that position?” “what’s the gym room like?”. The second was framed from the perspective of a suspect, e.g. “when can you search my bag?” “isn’t that an example of privatized parole?”. My questions were framed to discover the limits of the sheriff’s discretion, and made up about a third of the total asked.

The first speaker was Undersheriff (“vice-sheriff”) Tom Shomaker, who had a solid powerpoint presentation on the structure of Boulder County’s Criminal Justice System. I found it interesting that Nederland and Ward have Marshalls, described as volunteer city sheriffs, and not unionized and contracted city police like Boulder PD. All act with soft boundaries regarding their jurisdiction, made easier by a Colorado law I’ve yet to study. There is a great deal of cooperation between the various law-enforcement bodies. I was not able to elicit any information regarding the role of Federal agents, such as Park Rangers on the ample National Park land to the Northwest.

I was heartened to see a long list of Restorative Justice programs. While this included groups like Rocky Mountain Offender Management Services, which might be described as privatized probation, there is also the work of groups like MADD to arrange “truth and reconciliation” style meetings to heal both offender and victim. In regards to case flow it appears the detectives and DA can and do use restorative justice programs at any point in the process (arrest-charged-trial-sentence-parole).

The second speaker was Sergeant Lori Cox, a sheriff’s office veteran who is coping with her recent acceptance (2 months) of the role as head of Internal Affairs (IA, expect many acronyms). From the stories and charts Boulder Sheriff’s office appears to get about ten complaints per year, most of which are valid and require some response. The decision of how to investigate and respond to a complaint appears to be made by the commanding officer or Sheriff, which makes me question the independence of the IA office. Also investigations and judgements are not made public, unless so ordered by a court or the Sheriff. A recent example given was of a deputy speeding without warning lights, reported by a concerned citizen who was satisfied with a verbal reprimand. However I wonder why a ticket was not issued instead of a secret internal reprimand. At ten complaints per year and a few hundred employees, using the same reprimand everyone else gets appears reasonable.

Overall my objectives regarding the sheriff’s office and the law agencies they oversee remain the same as that as Boulder County Sheriff; to apply the methods of non-violence and love. This means achieving maximal effect for minimal force, and where possible substituting uncomfortable truths for painful punishments. I wish to heal not only the offended but the offender. I have pondered the question of Internal Affairs for some time, and I do not have a complete answer. But I do know it begins with humbly, publicly sharing the truth.