Glasgow: 'Planting' Criminals Deters Crime

The APD officer's death-penalty views raise eyebrows

Just as questions remain regarding the physical evidence connected to the Jessie Owens shooting, the text of an e-mail message obtained by the Chronicle, posted by APD Officer Scott Glasgow on the Austin Police Association's members-only message board, raises additional questions about the young officer's attitude, his critical thinking skills, and the mentality with which he apparently approaches street-level law enforcement. According to the text of the March 16 message, while studying for the APD detective promotional exam, Glasgow "decided to jump on the Internet" for some research, where he found an item that he thought his "fellow officers might enjoy."

That item was an abstract of a longer article published in The Journal of Law & Economics last year, posted Feb. 26 on the Web site of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based conservative think tank, titled "Death Penalty a Deterrent to Murder." According to the abstract, researchers reportedly analyzed U.S. Department of Justice crime data and all U.S. death penalty cases from 1977 to 1997 and concluded that capital punishment, in fact, deters homicide. "For every additional execution during the period of study, the number of homicides committed was reduced by five," the researchers reported, and "each additional commutation increased homicides by about the same amount." In response to those findings, Glasgow added his opinion on the topic: "That's right folks, for every one of them we plant in the ground, five of us are safe," he wrote in his post. "We commute a death sentence to a life sentence and the murders jump back up to pre-execution numbers. We let a guy off death row and one extra person gets murdered. Who says execution is not a deterrent?"

Of course, proving a negative is, at best, nearly impossible. "Some will say it's a deterrent, which flies in the face of 50 years of research that says it is not a deterrent," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center. "It is very hard to prove anything about something that hasn't happened. Relying on deterrence is a shaky ground." (Federal data also tends to challenge the notion of deterrence. According to the DPIC, 82% of all executions occur in the southern U.S., also the region of the country that, according to 2002 FBI stats, saw the biggest increase in the total number of homicides that year.)

Whether the research Glasgow posted was legitimate, critics of the department's handling of the Owens shooting are startled by what they consider evidence of Glasgow's callousness and lack of good judgment. "Basically, the way that is worded is offensive to me," said Owens' great-aunt Hazel Obey. She points out that the majority of the nation's prisoners – and death row inmates – are uneducated and minorities. "That tells me that there is no value placed on our lives," she said.

Both APA President Mike Sheffield and Tom Stribling, APA general counsel, declined to comment on the posting, which sources say was quickly removed from the APA's Web site. "That is an internal union communication and, really, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that," Sheffield said. "That is something that we are not going to discuss." Mike Rickman, Glasgow's civil service attorney, confirmed that his client posted the item but said that the content has nothing to do with Glasgow's attitude toward his police work. "He was voicing an opinion on convicted felons and the death penalty," Rickman said. "If anything, it was a bad choice of words to express an opinion on national policy. The bottom line is that he was making an opinion based on that article alone, and there is no correlation at all with what happened out there on Tillery."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Police Shootings, Scott Glasgow, National Center for Policy Analysis, Richard Dieter, Death Penalty Information Center, Mike Sheffield, Tom Stribling, Mike Rickman

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