The Ford Explorer & Carbon Monoxide

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Back in March 2017, there were several incidents involving Ford Explorer cop cars (Police Interceptor Utility) and carbon monoxide poisoning.  Several officers were involved in single vehicle crashes for unknown reasons, some of which involved career ending injuries.  At the time, the descriptions provided by the officers in those crashes seemed to point to, at least the potential of, carbon monoxide poisoning.  One of the most comprehensive articles I saw about the issue was from Law Enforcement Today in which they documented a number of incidents, including one in which an officer from the Austin Police Department (TX) was involved.  As noted in that Law Enforcement Today article, after the accident in Austin, the Austin PD took a very smart step and installed carbon monoxide detectors in their cars.

Here at my department, our patrol fleet is comprised of 55% Explorers, and the rest is either Crown Vics or Tauruses.  Based on that makeup, when I first heard about these potential issues, I became concerned and did some digging around.


Side Note: Just for a little personal background on me, so you know where I am coming from.  I have been a car guy all my life. I grew up in the garage working on cars with my dad.  Prior to entering this career, I worked in a number of jobs in the auto industry (parts sales, restoration, minor mechanical work).  Early in my law enforcement career, I was the Assistant Fleet Manager (a deputy position at the time) for my department.  I spent 15 years in a patrol car, and I am now a full-time EVOC (emergency vehicle operations course) instructor.  To this day, I still am a car guy and enjoy working on cars on my off time.  So, when I say I have a bit of knowledge about cars and how cops use them, I am not just basing that on hypothetical information I read in a book.  Additionally, going all the way back to my childhood years, I’ve been a Ford guy.  I’ve owned six fords over the years, five of them classics, and I still own one now.  I am not some Ford hater just out to bash them.


Fast forward a few months and we are still seeing reports about carbon monoxide issues in the Ford Explorers.  On July 11, 2017, an article came out that talked about five (5) Austin cops being hospitalized for carbon monoxide issues.  Remember where I mentioned that Austin PD installed CO detectors in their cars? Well, as it turns out, those CO detectors all showed harmful levels of CO present in the cars.  In fact, a sixth cop had the detector alert him/her but they did not need treatment.

Jump forward eight more days and yet another news story about another cop in another city being hospitalized for CO exposure.  This time it was a cop for the Meridian Township Police Department, and yet again, a CO detector was in the car to confirm actual harmful levels of the deadly gas.

This is legitimate problem.  It is not just some paranoid cops smelling something and then getting their hypochondriac on.  There is actual verifiable evidence that the problem not only exists, but also that it is not limited to just one department.

Then on July 28th, a news story hit the interwebs that says Ford plans to fix all the Ford Explorer cop cars that have carbon monoxide concerns.  In that news story, the Ford representative is apparently blaming vehicle upfitters for the problem.  The statement appears to blame the issue on “holes and unsealed spaces in the back of some Police Interceptor Utilities that had police equipment installed after leaving Ford’s factory.”  Really?  Every cop car since the dawn of cop cars has had police equipment installed in it after leaving the Ford factory.  Not that a hole in the car could not be to blame, but if it were really the fault of the equipment installers, do you really think Ford would be stepping up to the plate to pay for the repairs?  I smells me a scapegoat…

Back when the whole CO issue started popping up, I made a bunch of phone calls to talk to different folks at different agencies about what they were experiencing.  While I am not able to name the agencies, I can tell you that one of them is a very large statewide agency with a huge fleet of cars.  At the time of my phone conversations, they had about 1800 Ford Explorer cop cars.  They had also experienced several officers complaining of carbon monoxide problems, and several of those cops were taken to the emergency rooms for treatment.  That agency conducted an extensive amount of scientific testing using very precise testing equipment, and of all the cars tested, they only found one vehicle that they could confirm CO infiltrating the cabin, but it was not entering where Ford is claiming it enters.  They found the CO entering through the steering column, and it would only do it at high speeds. That particular car also had some damage to the exhaust system, damage that is all too common on the Explorer.

folding-parking-postDamaged exhaust system you say?  Yes, and in my opinion, this is likely a major contributing factor in this whole CO debacle.  Let me explain.  The Ford Explorer cop car has less ground clearance than the Crown Vic it replaced.  I can only surmise the Explorer’s lower ride height was done to improve its cornering/handling characteristics.  In addition to the lower ride height, the lowest part of the car is the exhaust system.  In fact, the lowest part of the exhaust is just behind the engine, where the exhaust down pipes turn rearward, and it is the middle of the car (side to side).  It is in the best possible position, if your intent was to have it hit the ground.  You see folks, cops don’t drive like regular people.  We routinely have to jump curbs, go over center divides in the roadway, travel off road at less than ideal speeds, drive across freeway medians, and so on.  Ford, who has been building cop cars for as long as they have, should know this.  Yet, the design of the exhaust system in the Explorer seems to indicate otherwise.  The exhaust is so low on the Explorer that it will not clear a fold-down pole blocking access to a bike trail (like the one pictured).  How do I know?  A coworker nearly ripped the exhaust off of his Explorer going over one of those.

I spoke to two of the mechanics that work on the patrol cars for my department and asked them about the exhaust systems.  They both noted that nearly every single Explorer in our fleet has some damage to the exhaust system.  They said that they have replaced an inordinate number of exhaust manifolds on the Explorer, but they did not keep track of how many.  You remember that large statewide agency I spoke to about the CO issue?  They kept numbers.  They have replaced more than 800 broken exhaust manifolds, at the cost of nearly $500,000 to the taxpayers.  You see, Ford refuses to pay for the repairs if there is a single scratch on the exhaust.  That agency echoed the same thing that our mechanics told me, and that was nearly every car in the field has damage to the exhaust.  If my memory serves me, they said that at least 80% of their fleet had damage to the exhaust.

Here is the biggest problem with the exhaust system design.  The first part to make contact is the bottom of the down pipes.  Depending on the severity of the contact, the rearward force on the exhaust system can cause the rear exhaust manifold (more like a traditional tube header than an exhaust manifold, but with a catalytic converter built into it) to break causing an exhaust leak.  That exhaust leak is in the engine compartment, and coincidentally enough, that leak sits almost directly below the fresh air intake for the ventilation system.

PIU-Exhaust

Now, this is just an educated guess on my part, and please bear in mind that I am just a dumb cop, and clearly no rocket scientist, but it would seem to me that an exhaust leak just below the air intake for the HVAC system, caused by a poorly designed exhaust system,  just might be the culprit.  Additionally, since the piss poor design of the exhaust system, on a vehicle the manufacturer sold for use as a cop car, and should reasonably have known would be driving over obstacles, left said exhaust system in a location where anyone who understands cop car usage would have reasonably known it would be damaged.  Thus it would seem to me that not only should the manufacturer be on the hook for the repairs to said damaged exhaust systems, but it would seem to me that they should also be tasked with designing a replacement exhaust system that will not be so easily damaged.

But like I said, I am just a dumb cop so what do I know…

 

Where’s The Love?

This post was written by a Facebook acquaintance and with his permission, I am sharing it here.  We often complain about how some departments fail to back their employees, but this example here takes the cake.

Want to hear what a warrior sounds like?

India36 on this radio traffic is a man I went through the Academy with back in another life.

Listen to his composure on the radio. Keep in mind this man just took a round, fired by criminal gang member, through his leg which shattered his femur. Do you have any idea of the pure internal strength it takes to keep calm after suffering such an agonizing wound?

I am proud to call India36, Mike Spencer, a brother… and he needs a bit of assistance.

The New Hanover County Sheriffs Department has been systematically fucking him over and now they want another sit-down with him in September. The last time nobody from his department even showed up.

Take a couple minutes and give Sheriff McMahon’s office a call at 910-798-4200 and politely encourage the Department and the Sheriff to actually show up for meetings they arrange with Mike… I think he deserves that respect.

Granted, I only know one side of the story, but it seems to me that the department representatives are failing quite dramatically at their most basic duties, like showing up to meetings they requested…
-Matt

Knowing Achievement

While discussing inner departmental politics with a friend I was forced to take a step back, breathe a little and use my brain in an attempt to understand some of the more political things which have occurred in my career. I was not able to conceive of an answer directly, even after multiple attempts which led my ADHD empowered brain to a new chain of thoughts. I asked myself what has been truly important in my career looking back all of these years? It certainly wasn’t “who got that good gig in Detectives” or “Look who got promoted but why?” While some of those questions occupied much of my time during my career years, the more important thoughts garnered some amount of recognition.

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I realized in a grand moment of temporary clarity the things in my career which resulted in meaningful change. It certainly wasn’t the shiny medals or the various accommodations I received from the Department. While I didn’t mind receiving those awards and was proud to have served, there wasn’t much substance contained. Often times a medal can be diminished by unwittingly comparing actions to someone else’s who have received a similar accommodation. The entire thought process seems to dilute the potency of such achievement leaving something to be desired. More importantly i observed great accomplishments in the many selfless acts of my partners which they thought were “no big deal” or “just part of the job.”

So grand realizations of those moments of pride came flowing back to me. There are so many lives touched by an officer serving for the good of the population rather than the good of the order. There are those rare calls for service or events which may spiral into an entirely new positive experience for an individual or victim. These types of effects can be difficult to perceive and takes a certain amount of introspection.

When an officer makes an arrest it is simply part of the job, we don’t get too excited about it. sometimes we get into a foot pursuit, chase somebody down and win the fight but a lot of those times no charges are filed. Sometimes the idiot we arrested just made a dumb mistake or was too emotional to behave like a civilized human being. Sometimes the subject was too socially stupid to Herve Leconte sits atop his vehicle to display a sign thanking all those who are dealing with the King fire while park alongside Highway 50 near Camino, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)warrant any pride from a resultant arrest. Sure there is the “job well done” feeling where Officers pat each other on the back the same way a carpenter looks back on his work and says “wow I did a good job on that cabinet” yet there is more to it than that.

True evil does exist. The willing and malicious damnation of fellow man through unspeakable acts of cruelty are defined as such. If we can nab one of them it is a fortuitous event which can be boasted of. Most of us count that type of arrest on one hand at the end of a long career. When you get to put that one away for good the effects upon time and space are astounding. That serial rapist won’t hurt anymore children. The sick kidnapper who imprisoned his victims for months and induced a feared loyalty upon them will be worshiped via fear no more. These are the events far more precious than a silver medal or a fancy letter from the Chief. The two may coincide and an officer may wear proudly upon his chest a mark of such achievement but the act itself is the source of pride. Everything else is just a distraction or a public relations campaign.

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It doesn’t end there. When an officer picks up a child with a skinned knee who fell off of their tricycle while the parent was inside smoking crank. When the woman whose child was found dead in a puddle by no mistake of her own is hugged by the responding officers who tried to save her. And when the officer places his hand on the arrested juveniles shoulder with a stern but warm look on his face and says “you can do better,” these are timeless as well. For that child the Officer shall never age, even after he has long since left this world. In the mother’s eyes the Officer’s boots will always shine in unison with that badge and those shared tears. Nothing can dry the memory of those heroes who stood with her when the world crumbled all around. And for the demon behind bars, that fiery gaze will forever be tormented by he who delivered justice. Even if the Department or the public didn’t happen to notice that time.

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The effects of a job well done are unending and incalculable. They truly spiral in every direction, undeterred by negative media attention, bad Departmental Policies or negative social attention. Those events are real and exist in a way which is infinitely repeatable yet important and distinct with each occurrence. The events are unchangeable and cannot be destroyed. The good will shown by officers who care is eternal and no hateful group or negative media attention can damage those moral deeds, for they have already been commuted.

Officer’s of the law stand proud during your career and do not minimize the great things you have done. Don’t listen to the garbage being spewed by public figure heads, brave keyboard bloggers or self righteous critics, they haven’t experienced the personal risk and reward system. Think back upon your career with pride and look upon the momentous life changing events you took part in for the better. Nobody can take that away from you unless you let them.
Good job and anybody who doesn’t think so or recognize it would never understand such an achievement anyways.

Officer Noor OIS: Important Missing Info

In case you have been living under a rock for the last several days, there was an officer involved shooting in Minneapolis, MN over the weekend.  Late Saturday night, around 11:30pm, officers responded to a 911 call about a disturbance in an alley.  At some point in time, after officers arrived, the 911 caller, Justine Damond, approached the patrol car on the diver side and was shot by the officer who was seated in the passenger seat.

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The above information is the super simplified version of what happened.  If you read many of the news reports about this incident, you might find all sorts of other information either added, or conspicuously lacking.  Sadly, as in the cases of most officer involved shootings, the information that is obviously lacking is causing many folks to try and fill that void, mostly with rumor and innuendo.  I myself am guilty of that on occasion, and have done so to a minor extent in this one.

Luckily, the fact that I am a working cop, and a street cop at that (as opposed to an administrator) lends me some credibility with other cops, at least those who know my reputation.  In this case, that lead to a cop familiar with this incident reaching out to try and fill some of the voids as best they could, without releasing information that could hinder any sort of investigation.  To be perfectly honest, what this cop told me is exactly what the police department should be releasing, but for whatever bizarre reason, they are being very tight lipped with all the information surrounding this incident.

Please take everything that follows with a grain of salt, as some of this information is from word of mouth and not direct knowledge, and other parts are intentionally vague to avoid causing problems for the person I spoke to.


First of all, most news reports are saying the 911 call was about a possible sexual assault, but from what I was told, it was dispatched more as a disturbance in the alley, with no specific location indicated in the call.

Second, and very importantly as most of the mainstream media is throwing a huge fit over the fact that their body cameras were not on at the time of the shooting, the officers had already checked the area and were not able to locate the source of the disturbance, so they drove to a dark area to clear the call, and while doing so, turned off their cameras.  That bit is also quite important as the media is throwing a fit over it.  Despite what the media is saying, turning the cameras off as they clear the call is totally within the department policy (or so I was told).

Despite what is being reported by many outlets, the officer only fired one shot.  While I think we will all agree, one shot was one too many, it is significantly different from what I read at various outlets that suggested multiple shots were fired.  While this may seem trivial to some people, one shot can be explained as a negligent discharge, where multiple shots cannot.  This is in fact quite important.  A negligent discharge does not make the shooting excusable, but it does make more sense than the officer just randomly shooting a caller for no apparent reason, which many of the news reports about this incident make it sound like.

Many news outlets are saying that the victim, Justine Damond, was standing at the patrol car driver’s door speaking to the officer driving when the passenger officer “drew his weapon and shot her through the door,” I was told this was not in fact the case.  There are several problems with that statement.  First, I was told she was not actually standing there talking to them, but rather that she was jogging/running toward their car.  Second, Officer Noor did not in fact draw his gun from the holster because he already had it out.  Apparently, as they checked the alley, they had their handguns unholstered and Noor had not yet reholstered his gun.  Third, Noor did not “shoot through the door,” at least not in the way that that statement makes most people picture the incident.  According to the person I spoke to, there were no holes in the door, so it is likely the shot went through the window, whether or not the window was down at the time is unknown.

In regards to Officer Noor himself, many outlets have (correctly) pointed out that he is a Somali immigrant.  However, many of those outlets seem to be insinuating that this incident may have been racially/religiously motivated.  The person I spoke to has had numerous first-hand dealings with Officer Noor and said there was never any indication that this could be a racial or religiously motivated incident.

Several people have posted comments in various locations, my Facebook page being one of them, indicating that Officer Noor was a problematic patrol trainee.  Some people said that his training had been extended, some saying extended more than once, because he was far below acceptable levels, and that he was being treated special because of political correctness reasons (he fit several hiring check boxes).  The person I spoke to said, to the best of their knowledge, none of that was true.  They said they even asked around to other people who are in the know regarding Officer Noor, and those other folks had also heard the same rumors, but they too said the rumors were inaccurate.  The consensus was that Noor was neither a problem trainee, nor was he ultra-stellar.  He was just an ordinary, mostly average trainee.

Noor was described to me as an “okay new cop, still pretty green.”  Some coworkers were put off by what was described as a slightly cocky attitude, but that attitude is not specific to Noor.  In fact, most young cops, especially those from his generation, seem to share that trait.  As for his greenness, it is also not specific to him.  Most senior cops, myself included, will tell you that the first two years you are in patrol on your own, you are a mess.  It takes most of us at least two years before we really know what we are doing, and Noor was not there yet.


I asked some questions I had specific to how the department there functions.  First, I wanted to know if all of the patrol cars were two-officer units or if the fact that two cops were in the car was unusual.  I was told that nearly all, if not all, of the patrol units fielded were two-officer cars.  The second question I had, which I asked based on personal observation at my own department, was if they were allowing two new cops to double up, or if they were putting new cops with seasoned officers.  I was told that there was no directive on that, and that most new cops tended to double up with other new cops.  In this particular incident, both Noor and his partner were fairly new to the job.

Now, as for specifics about the shooting and the ongoing investigation, I wish I had more information, but I do not.  We are just going to have to wait and see what comes from the investigation.

No matter what happens with the investigation, a truly innocent woman died needlessly.  That in and of itself is horrific.  Nothing that happens from this point on will bring her back, and nothing the city, the department, or Officer Noor does will make her loss any less tragic.  For her family and her friends, I offer my sincerest condolences.
-Matt

Ayala Vehicle Stop a Huge “Nothing Burger”

According to the news reports, on June 19th (nearly a month ago), two Florida cops performed a vehicle stop on a car occupied by Florida’s State’s Attorney Aramis Ayala.  The reason for the stop, as stated by the officers in the video, and confirmed by their department, is that they had run the license plates on her car through DMV on their computer and there was no record for the plates in the DMV computer system.  The officers, at least in all the versions of the video that I have seen, are polite and friendly to Ms. Ayala, who coincidentally is obviously perturbed and asked for the officer’s information.

The video of this stop was released a few days ago and since it was released, certain people’s heads are exploding.  The allegations that the stop was racially motivated are being thrown around like crazy.  Some people, namely those who have not the slightest clue about cop work, are straight freaking out over this.

Let’s watch the stop in its entirety.

So, let’s compare that traffic stop above to another one from a quite a number of years ago.  A CHP officer runs the plate on a mint green 1995 Ford Thunderbird, one that looks like it has seen better days, and has dark tinted windows.  The plate comes back not on file.  The CHP officer initiates a vehicle stop and the driver, me, a pale white guy, is contacted.  The CHP officer was polite and friendly, as was I, and once the CHP officer confirmed that the vehicle and license plates were not stolen and there was a legitimate reason the plates did not show up in DMV’s computer (it was an undercover cop car), we parted ways, and that was the end of it.  Which is exactly what should have happened in this case, but sadly that is not what is happening.

Folks, the media is playing you.  Just look at the incendiary headlines regarding this nothing of an incident.

  • Policeman pulls over black woman and quickly discovers she is the state attorney (Independent.co.uk)
  • Florida state attorney pulled over in traffic stop that goes nowhere fast (CNN)
  • Black Florida State Attorney Pulled Over in Traffic Stop, Prompting Criticism (NBC)
  • BLACK WHILE DRIVING: FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY STOPPED BY POLICE IN VIRAL VIDEO (Newswek)
  • VIDEO: Orlando police officers struggle to explain why they pulled over State Attorney Aramis Ayala (Orlando Weekly)
  • Florida Cops Goof In Pulling Over Black Female State Attorney For Garbage Reasons (HipHopWired)
  • VIDEO: State Attorney Aramis Ayala Racially Profiled By Orlando Police? (Florida National News)

This vehicle stop is a HUGE NOTHING!  Absolutely nothing about this traffic stop is remotely newsworthy, nothing.  And despite many of the articles, no one was scrambling to explain why they stopped her.  They very clearly stated the reason, a very legit reason.

For those of you who have no idea what we do, cops run license plates all day long.  We run them while we are driving to calls, we run them while we are driving to dinner, and sometimes we run them while we are heading to the station near the end of shift, but not as often then.   It is how we find stolen cars, wanted persons, verify registrations are current and valid, and many other things.  Not only is it legal to do that, it is actually part of our job and we are expected to do it.

In the case of Ms. Ayala’s stop, these cops ran her plate and it came back not on file.  There are many reasons why a license plate might not be in the DMV computer system, and only one of them is legal (the situation encountered in both previously mentioned vehicle stops).  Other reasons (the illegal ones) would be that the plates are counterfeit, of which there are many ways to fake this, or they could be very old plates that are no longer in the system and do not belong on the car.

In cop work, when a plate comes back not on file, we call that a clue, which usually prompts us to investigate why the license plate is not in DMV’s records, which is exactly what the cops in both of the vehicle stops previously mentioned did.  A stop was conducted, the driver was contacted, the vehicle and license plates were confirmed to be legit, and the drivers were released.  Everything occurred exactly as it should.  The only difference was one of the drivers (not me) got upset about being stopped and asked for the officer’s names and other information (insinuating that she is going to file a complaint).

Some people are insinuating she was stopped because she was black.  Was I stopped because I was white?  If she was stopped for being black (which she wasn’t), why were the cops so polite to her?

Come on folks, not everything is racist!  Stop looking for racism where there is none.  You are not fixing things, you are making them worse!

Hey Democrats, Not Everything is Racist

CA Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, proponent of SB-620
CA Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, proponent of SB-620

BREAKING NEWS! CA State Assembly is not quite as idiotic as the CA State Senate!

The CA Assembly is deadlocked on SB-620, a bill which claims to want to allow judges to ignore mandated sentence enhancements “in the interest of justice.”  In a move demonstrating that they care more for felons who use guns than the law abiding gun owners in the state, the CA senate passed the bill few months ago.  Thankfully, it appears that a few democrat members of the CA assembly have not fully sold their souls to the devil as a few of them joined the republicans in blocking this bill, which thankfully has been shelved for the time being, due to the deadlock.

So, what exactly would SB-620 “Firearms: Crimes: enhancements” do you ask?  Let me quote the actual summary of the bill that was used for house floor deliberation:

“Allows a court, in the interest of justice, to strike or dismiss a firearm enhancement which otherwise adds a state prison term of three, four, or 10 years, or five, six, or 10 years, depending on the firearm (assault weapon or machine gun), or a state prison term of 10 years, 20 years, or 25-years-tolife depending on the underlying offense and manner of use (if they actually shot someone). “

So why am I upset?  What is the big deal?  So what if the law allows a judge discretion to drop sentencing enhancements?

First of all, these are the same lawmakers who are constantly passing more and more restrictive, not to mention unconstitutional laws that are aimed at law abiding gun owners, such as me.  People who have done nothing wrong but are being hounded by these liberal, anti-gun lawmakers as if we are running about shooting people willy-nilly.

Secondly, those very same lawmakers who are going after law abiding gun owners with a vengeance are now proposing eliminating sentence enhancements for violent felons who actually used a gun during the commission of their crimes.  That is what this bill is about.  The crimes for which those enhancements are applied include: murder, mayhem, kidnapping, carjacking, assault with intent to commit rape, assault on a peace officer or firefighter with a deadly weapon, rape, sodomy (forced), child molest, oral copulation (forced) and more.  The crimes that receive the gun enhancement are not non-violent crimes.  These are very bad crimes being committee at gunpoint, by very bad people.

Hell, these intelligence-challenged lawmakers, the people who are constantly screaming “assault rifle this” and “assault rifle that,” are even suggesting that the judge be allowed to ignore the sentence enhancements for someone who used an “assault rifle” or machinegun during the commission of their crime, even if they shot someone.  Are these people serious?  They’re clowning us, right?

But wait, it gets even better.  So then, to top it off, when the bill (THANKFULLY!!!!) failed to pass, CA Assemblywoman Shirley Weber dropped this steaming pile of race baiting horse hockey:

“ ’[Judges] are prohibited from considering the facts of the case and whether a penalty would serve the interests of justice,’ Weber said, adding that the law disproportionately hurts people of color.”

Excuse me?  What did she say?  The law disproportionately hurts people of color?  Is there some invisible print in the law that says those enhancements only apply to people of color?  No?  Then is there already an existing exemption that allows a judge to ignore those enhancements if the criminal is white?  No?  Then shut up already!  Drop the race baiting BS lady!  It is old, its tired, and its a blatant lie.

The reason more people of color are affected by this law is that more people of color are committing the enumerated crimes while armed with a gun.  Again, as I have noted many times, this is not a race issue, it is a socio-economic issue.  Statistically speaking, more people of color live in poverty than whites and areas of poverty is where more drugs, crime and violence occur thus more people of color live in areas plagued by drugs, crime and violence, thus more people of color are involved in drugs, crime and violence, and thus more people of color are arrested for violent crimes.  It is not rocket surgery.  To suggest that somehow the laws are at fault for this takes a special kind of stupid.

Democrats, can you please stop claiming that everything you don’t like is racist? Please?  I feel like Bobby Boucher in the Waterboy.  Not everything is the devil mama!  Not everything is racist!