Meeting at the Stonehill Inn

turkey-legAround dinner time four groups converge in the Stonehill Inn.  They drink, start to engage in conversation to learn why they are here, and to expound on their many exploits.  Upright Citizens Brigade is loud even boisterous about their beheading of Klarg, wanting their exploit to be far and above those of mere common villagers that have gathered to eat near the edges of the various groups; the common rabble.

The groups, the heroes, so they say, sit in places of honor.  The loudest, of course, are the motley crew of the UCB.  Nearest the back are a demure group, sipping on wine with cloaks heavy on their head, despite the heat of the fireplace near them.  Their wardrobe makes it hard to know whether they are human or orc.  Another group, in the center of the fracas, the townsfoke know are n00bs.  They seem to call themselves the Flaming Swords.  And finally the last, a group of dwarves, dense with ale and thick with song.  They grow weary of the tales of murderous intent from the UCB.  So, suddenly break into song:

Far over the misty mountains cold
To inns deep, and highballs old
We must away drink until the break of day
In seek of the pale enchanted gold egg.

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
And their hammers fell like ringing bells
But instead we sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the sheets.

For ancient king and elvish lord,
There many a gleaming golden hoard
But we care care not what they shaped and wrought
Since it is hard to hide in gems on hilt of sword.

On silver goblets…

Before the group of jolly go deeper in lore, the door of the in suddenly opens.  In comes Sister Garaele with a man, cloaked in similar garb as the wine drinker follows.  The fading light of the setting sun making her sliver hair glow, incaptivating all.  Dwarves suddenly quiet and the forks feasting on mutton suddenly quiet…

Note: So sorry, Tolkien for the song.

Bureaucracy and the NYPD Slowdown

NYPD BadgeOver the last few days, I’ve watched the goings on with the police force slowdown in New York with some interest.  As the police have done less, there has been little change in overall crime.  Opponents say this is proof that there is something amiss in the NYPD and their tactics.  In truth, it hasn’t been long enough to prove much of anything except arrests and citations do not necessarily make a society safer.  To me, it unearths the shows the inherent problems with the modern bureaucracy.

Since a society without codified rules can be an unwelcoming place, especially to minority viewpoints, a bureaucracy is necessary.  The problem is that we often go too far and end up codifying social norms and making minor offenses subject to fines.  This leads to arbitrary, asymmetrical justice and increases mistrust of the system.

Vincent Freeman, Illegal jaywalker for the sake of a womanTake jaywalking.  With the rise in autos, many cities made it illegal because drivers disapproved of people crossing willy-nilly.  It made sense as it could improve driver and pedestrian safety.  Upon enforcement however, government bureaucracy makes it is a mess. 

Example: A person jaywalks and a police officer stops them.  In this situation, the officer has great leeway depending on the overall interaction.  They could:

  1. Let the person go after warning them on the dangers
  2. Run their name through the warrant system
  3. Pat them down to see if they are committing other crimes
  4. Write them a jaywalking citation

Ideally, all involved would want the least invasive to happen.  The police officer to tell them not to do it again and leave the matter at that.  However, the bureaucracy prevents this.  There are ticket quotas or standard operating procedures to run names or to stop and frisk people committing minor offenses.

What happens is that more often than not after a citizen’s private life is reviewed, they end up with a citation.  Even if they go to court and prove themselves innocent, they still pay court costs and take time out of their lives to fight it.  So in the end, it is often lose-lose interaction when a police officer stops a citizen.

What makes this more insidious is that getting caught for jaywalking varies depending on where it happened in a city.  Police patrol more in high-crime areas.  These tend to be poorer neighborhoods that are statistically more likely to have a greater portion of minorities.  So, citizens in these areas end up with more citations and more negative perceptions of the police.

This hurts neighborhoods.  It makes people avoid police.  Many have had run ins for minor offences, and those who haven’t feel they can get scrutinized for trivial matters.  Often the citizenry becomes disdainful, making interactions with authorities tenser than they need to be.  Polices in-turn feel many of the citizens they protect are criminals, given their reluctance to communicate amicably.

In the short-term, I think the slowdown is good for New Yorkers in general.  It will give people time to cool off.  If it continues long-term, it might be of questionable benefit as society adjusts to these changes. 

It would be a good time to rethink how police should interact with who they protect.  They could start by abandoning revenue (citation) generating quotas.  This simple change would lessen the adversarial nature of many interactions as police no longer target minor infractions in an effort to stay employed.

A Message Arrives

envelope-mdOne warm spring day, Kelseer was sitting at his desk in his adventure guild office in Phandalin when he heard a familiar soft rap came from the door.

His page, Rubin Dizzle, entered.  “Sir, a letter just came for you.”

Kelseer took it and gazed on up the red wax sealing the envelope.  It was stamped with a four leaf clover, indicating that it came from a follower of Tymora, the goddess of luck.  This sparked his interest as the guild didn’t often deal with her followers.  Opening the letter, he noted the very efficient and eloquent script of a scholar or one with writing experience.  It read:

Dear Sirs,

I would like to inform you that there is a mission of up most importance and request assistance of one or more parties to deliver goods to the south post haste.  To inquire, please join me in the Stonehill Inn on the evening marrow for food and a discussion of what my shrine needs completed.

Good fortune,

Sister Garaele, Acolyte of Tymora in Phandalin