Search the Lounge

Categories

« Source Checking the New York Times Magazine -- Part One | Main | Villanova Receives Naming Gift »

January 20, 2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

What about giving her the benefit of the doubt? When I was a young, dumb inexperienced Public Defender immediately out of my Tier Two law school and suburban middle class environment, I used to get all excited and my undies in a bunch over my clients' tales of woe. Coppers were just stopping random people and "putting drugs on them" or asking clients to bring them a gun or that a BAC of .17 was false cause my client only had 1 beer. I was shocked, horrified and everything was a cause for justice. It kept me up at night. I was going to the Supreme Court and was on the phone constantly with the ACLU, etc. Now, I am old and gray and smell "bullshit" walking in the door. I know now to check things out and stand back....don't get too excited anymore. Perhaps this young lady heard it from a guy who heard it from another dude who was told by this other dude that the Philly Coppers are engaging in this? Perhaps she didn't have the skills or seasoning to check this out? Perhaps she is young and dumb just like me? (ie didn't know she was stepping in bullshit) Aren't we are all guilty of that at the beginning of our careers?

just another solo

Given how important this claim was to Goffman's book, and holding her to the standards of a person pursuing a Ph.D in sociology, she should have attempted to observe in person whether this was happening.

If she went to various hospitals and then could not confirm this practice existed then she should have mentioned this in her book, and stated something to the effect that "the Sixth street boys believe that the police stake out hospitals, but I was unable to confirm that this is a regular practice despite multiple attempts to observe this activity."

twbb

The thing is according to her the police told her this while they were arresting people in the hospital. But that still doesn't really disprove your point, Hruska. The cops might have been messing with her ("let's see if we can troll the bleeding heart liberal academic"), or those cops might have come up with this idea themselves. I still am not quite sure how the fact that there is no departmental policy to do X automatically means it's impossible that beat cops in that department said they do X.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

Why would the coppers mislead an academic over a dubious, ineffective, time consuming method to clear warrants? In my experience as a practitioner, coppers take people away at the hospital because they are combative, start altercations or as a result of an investigation for abuse. They are called there first. I have developed enough relationships with coppers to just "pick up the phone." Hey, Officer Krupke, does this shit really go down like this? The coppers I know give me a straight answer and are more than happy to educate me. It goes both ways. I have had coppers ask me "Why their case got kicked out of court?" What did they do wrong? I give them a straight answer as well...

Doesn't make sense either that coppers would "mess" with a "bleeding" heart just to be a troll or worse. Why would they want to draw heat just to "screw" with a perceived "bleeding heart?"

twbb

The point is it's not some impossibly crazy thing. I mean, hospitals themselves sometimes run checks on visitors for outstanding felony warrants:

http://www.todayshospitalist.com/index.php?b=articles_read&cnt=1864

I'm not arguing that it "makes sense" that they would do it, I'm simply pointing out that it is not beyond the realm of rationality that a few cops might have done so in this case.

BB

No, it's just unlikely that, in a city with almost 2 million people, no similar arrest has ever been documented, yet it apparently happened with Goffman's CI at a moment she happened to be present (and that the cop in attendance admitted to the "practice" that underlay his visit).

Enrique Guerra Pujol

Since Goffman book purports to be a work of non-fiction, I wonder if people who bought the book could bring a class action lawsuit against Goffman and the publisher under a fraudulent misrepresentation theory of liability. Damages per plaintiff would not exceed the purchase price of the book, but she sold a lot of books ...

Notapersona

Am I the only one who thinks the standard of fact checking for "something some dude tells you and you believe " and a graduate thesis/published book are just a little different?! Just a little.

just another solo

But, but, TWBB has asserted a new standard for fact finding. "not beyond the realm of rationality". A hospital in another state has a security desk which internally checks on the backgrounds of visitors, so therefore Philadelphia police can have the same access at some unnamed hospital in their city.

This standard hasn't been previously seen in law, or journalism, or social science, but go on TWBB, is it a standard accepted in sociology?

Even if we are playing devil's advocate, and such actions occurred, do you really think that police officers would volunteer such information to Goffman when it would demonstrate that they, and the hospital were violating HIPPA. (She did say that they were checking patient names not just visitor names)

Of course if a hospital in Philadelphia is really violating HIPPA and discriminating against African Americans by disclosing it's patient lists to the police, and notice I said lists, you would think that Goffman would do something to help stop this practice like, make the name of this hospital public.

Does the rules of sociology research mean that she has to protect institutional wrong doers? It seems ridiculous on its face.

twbb

"But, but, TWBB has asserted a new standard for fact finding. "not beyond the realm of rationality". A hospital in another state has a security desk which internally checks on the backgrounds of visitors, so therefore Philadelphia police can have the same access at some unnamed hospital in their city.

This standard hasn't been previously seen in law, or journalism, or social science, but go on TWBB, is it a standard accepted in sociology?"

You are completely misrepresenting my argument. I am not defending Goffman's academic work, or stating that "not implausible" is or should be the standard for establishing fact in either sociology or law. Goffman has not sufficiently proven that the police in general or even those police specifically check visitor's logs at the hospital. Academics and journalists should not rely on that assertion because of the doubts as to its veracity and the lack of evidence provided by Goffman.

However, Steven Lubet has also not sufficiently proven that the only reasonable conclusion is that Goffman maliciously fabricated the conversation itself, because the evidence he has presented -- that the higher-ranking people he polled have said it's not a policy -- does not sufficiently prove his argument. To present other "plausible" options does not imply that those options must have been the case or that it is even likely they were the case.

I am simply stating that it is possible that some local beat cops told Goffman they checked the visitor's log for names. It is possible that the cops who told her that (and maybe only those) actually do this on occasion, which is actually supported by GLK's sources. I asked a friend of mine who is a Philadelphia worker and someone who has worked in hospitals. She states it would be a waste of time so the police would likely not do it on those grounds, but she stated that if they wanted to do so there wouldn't be much stopping them. The fact that Goffman appears to have accepted this uncritically then expanded it into a "thing the police do" to both patients and visitors to support her central thesis is not defensible factually, but incorrect conclusions doesn't prove your premises were intentionally made up.

"Even if we are playing devil's advocate, and such actions occurred, do you really think that police officers would volunteer such information to Goffman when it would demonstrate that they, and the hospital were violating HIPPA. (She did say that they were checking patient names not just visitor names)"

There are a couple of flaws with that argument. First, the police would not be violating HIPAA in any case because they are not covered entities under HIPAA.

Second, the hospital would only violate HIPAA through the police "checking the visitor's log" if:
(a)it meant the hospital or its employees actually actively provided the entire visitor's log to the police (rather than the police either just picking up an unmonitored clipboard OR providing specific names of fugitives to the hospital) AND (b) there were patient names on the visitor list.

Thirdly, beat cops are not known for their mastery of federal statutes. They might think there's absolutely nothing wrong with what they're doing. They might even be proud of the idea.

It's a little bizarre that both Steven Lubet and Paul Campos focused so much on the conversation recounted by Goffman early on, considering the later citation-less claim is a much easier one to attack. That is much harder to defend because there's no citation. However, if Goffman based her assertion on p. 55 on the conversation with the police then it is not defensible as a scholarly conclusion but it is still not evidence that she completely made it all up to sell books.

"Of course if a hospital in Philadelphia is really violating HIPPA and discriminating against African Americans by disclosing it's patient lists to the police"

A vague sense that there must be something illegal about the police checking visitor's logs is not enough to establish illegality (see my argument labeled "Second" above). The "discriminating against African-Americans" claim just makes no sense; if the hospital is not limiting warrant checks to African-American fugitives, the mere fact that the individual hospital serves a largely African-American community does not establish actionable "discrimination" under any legal definition of the term.

"Does the rules of sociology research mean that she has to protect institutional wrong doers?"

Absolutely, if she promised confidentiality and revealing the hospital's name would reveal the identity of her informants, including any police or hospital personnel violating the law. That's not even a close question; IRB rules require MORE confidentiality when it comes to illegal acts, not less. See, e.g., http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/archive/irb/irb_chapter3.htm

twbb

Completely misrepresenting my views for the first part, and just being plain wrong legally for the last, but I'm not going to waste time recreating another point-by-point rebuttal if it's just going to get deleted again.

Steve L.

What comment are your referring to, twbb? Nothing has been deleted from this thread or the previous one, and I don't see anything trapped in the spam filter.

twbb

Hmm, then my apologies for the accusation. I hit submit on a fairly long one and I thought I saw it go through. In that case, to present a slightly abridged response to "just another solo":

* You are misinterpreting what I said completely. I am not arguing for a "not implausible" burden of proof in either law or sociology; I am simply stating that proving the claim that checking visitor (or patient logs) for warrants is not a policy of the Philadelphia police does not disprove that individual police officers told Goffman that they did so. Goffman hasn't sufficiently proven that officers in general or these specific officers in particular routinely check visitor's logs, but her critics have not sufficiently proven that the only reasonable explanation for the conversation is that she completely fabricated it, at least as from the evidence they've presented.

* The section quoted above in this post is harder to defend, and I find it puzzling that both Steven and Paul Campos spent so long trying to discredit the "the cops told me" quote when they should have started with this one. In any event, since there is no citation for it we are not sure where Goffman got that information. If it's based on her account of the conversation with the police (maybe the visitor logs include people admitting themselves to the hospital), then it seems an incorrect or inadequate conclusion based on that conversation, but not necessarily deceitful. If it's based on unidentified people telling her it happened (for example, the informants she knows), then it's poor academic practice not to establish where that information came from. However, it does not prove that she maliciously fabricated things she knows to be untrue to sell books or push her thesis.

* One of the main issues I have with the narrative against Goffman is the assumption that since it feels like the police would be doing something wrong by checking visitor logs then it must be wrong and the police would clearly never admit to doing it. The police would not be violating HIPAA because they are not covered entities. The hospital would not be violating HIPAA because the names of people entering a hospital alone are not protected health information under the statute. Unless the warrant checks were being run ONLY against African-American visitors/patients, or the police involved intentionally selected the hospital as the one (or one of the ones) on which to focus their warrant checks because it served African-Americans, there is no legally actionable discrimination claim.

* The "rules of sociology," if you mean IRB rules, absolutely require confidentiality for any information that will help identify individuals who may have violated the law. The confidentiality rules are actually stronger, not weaker, when applied to possibly identifying criminal violations.

Steve L.

Your comment just showed up in the spam filter, twbb, and -- as you can see above -- I released it.

I welcome criticism and I do not usually respond to comments, but I might as well make one point now that I am writing:

I have never said that Goffman "maliciously fabricated" anything, so please don't put words in mouth. I do find it implausible that (1) no one else would ever have noticed the Philadelphia police "waiting outside hospitals [to] run IDs," or (2) that cops made three arrests on the same maternity floor on a single night, or (3) that the cops interrupted the sweep to explain their practices to a bystander, or (4) that the second and third fugitives waited around to get arrested after they heard Goffman's friend screaming "Don't take him" in another room.

twbb

Fair enough, I might have unfairly misinterpreted your articles on this subject in general. Though if you don't believe the incident happened where police officers told Goffman they routinely checked visitors to the hospital, do you think there is another explanation other than lying? To address the things you find implausible:

* "(1) no one else would ever have noticed the Philadelphia police "waiting outside hospitals [to] run IDs,"

I honestly think at a busy inner city hospital at any given time there will likely be a police presence, whether it's from bringing in suspects, coming to take victim statements, or simply on patrol.

* "(2) that cops made three arrests on the same maternity floor on a single night"

Doesn't seem particularly far-fetched.

"(3) that the cops interrupted the sweep to explain their practices to a bystander"

Every single time I've seen someone arrested it has been followed up by a lengthy period of cops just standing around, chatting with each other, filling out forms, or talking on their radios.

"(4) that the second and third fugitives waited around to get arrested after they heard Goffman's friend screaming "Don't take him" in another room."

Did they know Goffman's friend was arrested because of a warrant search?

Before I get accused of just accepting everything Goffman says, I will reiterate that at the very least it IS an implausible book on many fronts. I just find some of the arguments against it unconvincing and misplaced; they go too far, too soon. By all means keep investigating, and Goffman's defense about appealing to "white male authority" is fairly obnoxious, but I do think a lot of the people finding the incidents implausible live in a very different world than Goffman's informants.

Anyway, in this interest of getting my own damn work done and not getting drawn into more long arguments over something that in the end I don't care enough about to have invested this much time (and I will try to resist responding to comments that just have a compulsive need to respond to personal attacks), I will sum up my problems with it then drop out of the conversation:

(1) it unfairly, in my mind, damns an entire methodological approach (ethnography) on the basis of one project;
(2) it relies too uncritically on a "well that would be against policy!" critique which is dangerous when you're talking about police (and prosecutors). See, e.g., the very-much-against-policy but fairly well-documented practice in a lot of departments of carrying around a throwaway pistol to drop at crime scenes.
(3) it finds too many things implausible that I just don't think are especially so.

My own theory is simply Goffman did this work clumsily as a young PhD student, did not critically examine her informants enough, and went too far in anonymizing what she found. That doesn't mean the book is completely useless or completely unreliable, and it can be useful as part of a larger body of study, as long as its limitations and problems are recognized. I would, however, counsel waiting a while before riding Goffman out of town on a rail.

Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance King

TWBB:

Interesting comment: "That doesn't mean the book is completely useless or completely unreliable, and it can be useful as part of a larger body of study, as long as its "LIMITATIONS AND PROBLEMS ARE RECOGNIZED."

There is precisely another book with exactly that identical problem forming the nucleus of much societal, cultural and political rift. The Bible.

Kim Davis and Sarah Palin notwithstanding.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Bloggers Emereti

StatCounter

  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad