The Whiskey Experiment

I embarked upon a journey through sampling assorted whiskeys over the past couple of years. From the classic Scotch Whiskys to Bourbons, from Irish Whiskeys to the recent Rye boom, and anything that looked interesting to try, I chose not to limit any categories until I understood more about what I liked and did not like. I do not proclaim to be more than an enthusiast, and still do not really know that much about whiskey in general to be completely transparent, but this has been an interesting enough experiment and journey that it warrants finally sharing some of the things I’ve learned. We’ll start with a bourbon that I am currently enjoying: the Henry McKenna Single-Barrel offering, barreled in 2009.

Before delving into this particular bourbon, a little backstory about my experiment is probably in order to better understand the probable gaps in knowledge that will be evident. My first experience with whiskey was subpar, to say the least. It seemed to be nothing more than a liquid designed to burn anything and everything it came into contact with, leaving the drinker wanting to chase it with a gallon of something smooth and flavorful to counteract the destruction. Knowing that my first foray into drinking beer was similar, and that the truth was simply that my first beer was just a bad beer for my taste preferences and likes, I expected that the millions of people who enjoy whiskey surely are not simply drinking it to simulate guzzling bleach. Naturally, this meant that I would just turn back to rum and vodka for decades before making the decision to figure out this whole whiskey thing.

Interestingly enough, a trip to the Jack Daniels Distillery rekindled my interest in exploring what it was that makes whiskey such an appealing drink to so many people, mostly because the production process was so intriguing. I decided to start with, rather obviously, a Tennessee whiskey, a scotch whisky (specifically Glenfiddich), and a bourbon whiskey (Maker’s Mark). Since then I have tried many, many different whiskeys from many different distilleries (large and small), and have generally discovered that I enjoy whiskeys that fall into one of two general categories of flavor profiles: smooth (such influences on flavor as vanilla, caramel, toffee, etc.) with a spice note, or lightly smoked/peated and smooth. As always, there are occasional exceptions that I find that do not fit in those broad categories, but that should provide a general baseline for understanding what types of whiskeys I may choose to write about.

Back to this post’s whiskey of choice: Henry McKenna SIngle-Barrel.

From the Heaven Hill Distillery’s website, this bourbon is named for “Henry McKenna, the Irish immigrant who adapted his family's whiskey recipe to work the grains he found in Kentucky. Henry McKenna is the longest aged Bottled-in-Bond available today, resting in the barrel through 40 Kentucky seasons.” I’ll copy their tasting notes at the end of this post as well, for those who just want a simple summary.

Generally speaking, I tend to prefer my whiskey chilled somewhat (as in served over a single, massive block of ice or with whiskey stones). When trying something new I also make certain I try it neat to see which way works best for me. The Henry McKenna is one I prefer chilled, which I expect to be a result of the extra little bite from being 100 proof, though it was definitely smoother than I expected when sampled neat.

As with every whiskey I have ever tried, my first sip reminded me of napalm and bleach, and had me unable to keep from grimacing slightly (on the inside). With the first sip out of the way, I was ready to see what this bourbon had to offer. Bringing the glass to my nose I paused, the subtle hints of vanilla and oak were easily detected; in fact, so delightful was the smell of this bourbon that I paused a bit longer and simply enjoyed its aromatic profile for a moment. With my next sip I was met with the warmth of honey and oak, dancing with my tastebuds like two teenagers on a hormonal high at a rave; there was a definite underlying smoothness that I knew would continue to be brought out as the liquid chilled a bit more, and a subdued bite that was almost apologetic in the way it presented itself and then disappeared.

To say this is a good bourbon is quite an understatement, though what else would you call a bourbon that hits all the marks of what you expect and want it to be? I could call this a really good bourbon, I suppose, and maybe even borderline great, but for me a great bourbon is one that makes me want to keep a stockpile of it on hand. While good, and one I would absolutely purchase again, it is not one that makes me want to find a consistent source for it. I should note that while price influences this judgement as well, and the Henry McKenna is currently very inexpensive, thereby making it a much better buy than my preferred “greats,” there is a lack of something in its flavor profile for my personal preference. As a result, although I would rank this somewhere in the range of 4.6 / 5.0, it still does not quite hit my arbitrary and subjective category of “great bourbons.”

Continuing with my dram, I enjoyed the consistently smoother profile as the ice began to melt just a little, and the liquid reached a slightly chilled state, which would therefore be my recommended method of serving/consumption. For those interested, the Peak four cube ice tray (link) is my preferred size for my single cube.

Tasting Notes

  • Color: Warm golden amber

  • Aroma: Vanilla, caramel, oak, and a light herbaceous note

  • Taste: Smooth oak, sharp spices, honey and sweetness

  • Finish: Long, sweet and spicy

Back in Black

Just in case a reader is too young to get the reference, the title is a nod to AC/DC. 

After a rather lengthy hiatus from writing, social media, and even news to a large extent, I’ve resurrected my web presence with a nice, new look, tweaked content, and even pulled in some old writings. In addition, my portfolio and branding has been updated (and looks great), and I’m looking forward to writing again.

Stay tuned. My random musings and exploration of life through creative works are back!

White American

November 9, 2016. Think about it for a moment. Recognize that this marks a day when people believing they are espousing messages of inclusivity and hope began to turn into the same people they believed they were fighting back against for a long time. Stay with me, and hopefully we can both agree on how absurd so many comments and thoughts have been over the past two days.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first: I am a white male. I grew up in rural Georgia. I am married and have a son. I received my undergraduate degree from Columbus State University and my Masters from the University of Cincinnati. I am the demographic many of you have decided to lump into one singular category since November 8, and the fact that you are relying on stereotypes and broad categorical labels is just as much of a problem now as any other issue present in this country. You are doing exactly what you accuse me of doing on a daily basis simply because I am not female, or a person of color, or identify as a non-heterosexual male. You are labeling, blaming, and lashing out at me without any legitimate reason, simply because I am different from you.

There are absolutely racist white morons in this country. There are issues that we face in this country that stem from the systematic oppression of others. There are plenty of things that you and I would agree emphatically on if we were to discuss things over a cup of coffee. There is one fundamental difference, however, in our views: I wholeheartedly believe that everyone is equal and that our society should be shaped in such a way as to make that clear, whereas I do not see that belief from you.

As long as we continue to separate ourselves from each other, especially through systems of classification and labels (such as African-American, white, or homosexual, just to pick some examples) we will continue to create and reinforce stereotypes and societal divisions that we will not overcome. As long as we view our neighbors, friends, coworkers, and strangers we encounter as “x label” instead of viewing them as fellow Americans, we are lost. As long as we blame others and find fault with them in some way, we have failed.

I get it. You're frightened because the person that has been elected to lead this country has shown us that he is misogynistic, authoritarian, homophobic, and bigoted. What you seem to be forgetting, however, is that judging or labeling others by any demographic is exactly the problem you feel you have been facing, and now you are responding by doing that very thing to me.

We are in this together. I'm scared of what the coming days, weeks, months, and years will bring as well. Let's start by looking at each other as fellow human beings and figuring out how we make a positive difference, from the ground up, in a country where we have (for far too long) looked for answers from the top down.

Waning Hope

I'm tired. If I discuss racism, inequality, or really any social issue, I'm ignored or told I cannot possibly know what I am talking about from my position of privilege (I am a white male). Instead I get to watch from the sidelines as wave after wave of rhetoric and uninformed drivel gets spouted at the American public as if there is no possible way any other view is worth considering, and watching the pendulum of bigotry and divisiveness swing from one side to the next.I truly hope that one day people open their eyes and understand the most basic concept required for us to be able to move toward an honestly better Society: labels and classifications of people cannot continue to exist, or we will always have issues with discrimination and inequality.As long as we reinforce the notion of self-identification with a particular group, we divide ourselves based on similarities to others. We create the very divisive structure that we claim we want to see eliminated. Unfortunately, many do not want to see these structures removed from Society. How else can a political nominee measure demographics to try to mobilize specific groups to vote? How else can an insurance company classify individuals to "customize" rates in order to preserve their bottom line? How else can social constructs negotiate for preferential treatment or special privileges? We have grown accustomed to the power struggles among groups of people, when we should be tearing down these constructs and forcing one simple question onto everyone: what is best for the human race?I certainly cannot claim to have all of the answers or to have a roadmap leading us from our current struggles to the promised land. I know, without the slightest doubt, that our first step is to honestly look at each other as equals instead of looking at the idiotic notions of separate classifications of people based on any physical trait. Unfortunately, as I get older, I realize the likelihood of seeing my dream come true becomes less and less likely with every passing year. Maybe, at this point, I have to just keep the world from changing me instead of hoping for change in the world.

Things My Son Taught Me... Seven Month Edition

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Prior Post(s) in this series:

  • Things I've Learned Since Becoming A Father

Ask any parent what it is like to have a child and you will probably hear some variation of "it's such an amazing experience; I don't know how to describe it," or "I've never experienced such love and joy." There is a large amount of truth in each of those answers and their assorted variations, but every parent leaves a lot of things unsaid. There truly, and I mean that with all sincerity, just are not proper combinations of words in any language that can convey what it is like to have your own little spawn creating a whirlwind of... not terror... umm... well... crap. We'll come back to that thought. Maybe providing some lessons I've learned first will provide enough background for us to come up with the ending of that statement together.

Lesson One: "If I can reach it, I can try to eat it."

I knew a kid was prone to putting anything into their mouth and at least trying to bite it a few times. That hasn't surprised me. What has surprised me, however, is that pillows are the greatest thing ever invented for trying to eat. Consistently. To the point where my son's excitement to see the pillow and lunge for it, jaws agape, like a little vampire diving onto a plump, chunky human after weeks of fasting seems to be normal behavior to us now.

And hard plastic? You would think that would be tossed aside quickly in favor of any number of hundreds of other items we now possess, but a hard plastic toy seems to be the second best option. Lesson learned. The more logical the thought of something being a highly sought after chew toy, the less likely my son will choose to chew on it.

Lesson Two: "I will show you the true power of the digestive system."

Chemical warfare. There is no other phrase that even possibly encapsulates the odors a child can produce. I have smelled many, many things in my lifetime that were unpleasant, and even borderline unbearable. There are times when my son will turn, look me dead in the eye, and then let rip the most unholy of odors while laughing maniacally (ok, in fairness, he just smiles and giggles slightly, but I interpret that as the infant equivalent of the Joker's hysterical laughter in this situation).

Not even a group of adult males binging on Taco Bell and Krystal after a night of liberal consumption of libations can compare to the destructive power of an infant's normally functioning and fully operational digestive system. Lesson learned. Invest in gas masks, febreeze, lysol, and powerful vortex fans to push airflow throughout the home...

Lesson Three: "I can still be ridiculously cute, and you will still fall for it."

I'm pretty sure every parent has the same basic idea bout their own child. Genetics should require such behavior. Seriously, if my son was not as cute/handsome/adorable as he is, I can see how ignoring him could be an option. Or donating him. Or trying to return him to the hospital. Being adorable has to be the baby equivalent of a genetic defense mechanism, ensuring parental attachment and continued survival into adolescence, when parental investment is too great to scrap the project and start over.

Seriously, how could you not fall for this face? Lesson learned. Your child possesses innate kryptonite to keep you from trying to pawn him/her off.

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Lesson Four: The joy of watching a child grow, and the happiness they bring, really cannot be explained.

Think of the following string of descriptors: excitement, apprehension, confusion, joy, fear, frustration, exhaustion, love. Yeah... children are an emotional train wreck slamming into a psychological roller coaster at the apex of the first hill. Every milestone is a combination of excitement that the minion achieved something new and apprehension at how this new skill translates into getting into something you haven't thought of yet. The classic example is learning to crawl, because as a parent you become ecstatic for a fleeting moment that your child figured out movement (a complex concept), followed by the immediate realization that your child is now capable of getting into things that you used to place safely out of reach (and the dread that comes with realizing your child can now stalk you). Lesson learned. Kids are wonderful, you just have to learn to focus on the positive moments.

Lesson Five: There is a different kind of love a parent possesses for their child, and it should not be in any type of competition with the love each parent holds for their significant other.

This is one of those things that tends to be overlooked, and yet is absolutely an important distinction to make. The love I feel for my son cannot be explained. I didn't choose to love him, I just did. I didn't find him attractive and court him, he just showed up and I was smitten. I can't choose not to love him (well, ok, technically I could...). On the other hand, I did seek out my wife. I found her attractive and courted her, wanting to spend the rest of my life with her by my side. These are both manifestations of love, but they are absolutely a different kind of love from one another. Neither is stronger than the other. While this isn't necessarily a lesson my son taught me, and I'm taking a break from the humorous aspect for this point, it's something that has become that much clearer having a child. Just keep this one in mind and make sure you focus on both relationships properly, ok?

Lesson Six: Fear is a strong emotion. It will test you.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering...Come on, did you really thing I wouldn't work that quote in when I decided to add a point about fear to the list? Children will test your ability to overcome fear. How close do I let him crawl at light speed toward the edge of the couch before I stop him from diving head first onto the hardwood floor? How big a bite do I let him keep of that teething wafer, or whatever solid food we're trying today? Am I putting the fracking car seat in correctly or does it just look and feel like it is correct, lulling me into a false sense of security?

I'm suddenly an overprotective father. How? I've never been overprotective that I'm aware of. It is a constant line I have to remind myself to be mindful of, and force myself to accept some things as part of the learning process. It isn't always easy. Lesson learned. Having a child will make you suddenly question the safety of everything you are doing, even though you know full well you did plenty of stupid stuff as a kid that should have killed you.

So, how do we finish that statement I couldn't figure out how to finish earlier? Well, I'm not so sure we need to. After all, we've made it this far without the proper combinations of words to describe the ups and downs, the joys and frustrations, the sheer excitement and mind-freeing angst of raising a child. What's another few hundred years before trying to come up with another way to describe it to someone else?

Understanding The Brain and Violence

Over the past two decades a significant amount of research has been undertaken that attempts to identify the connection between variations in brain structure and brain functioning with emotions, personality traits, and behaviors; this body of research has generated empirical evidence implicating variations in both brain structure and function in the development of practically every conceivable antisocial phenotype, especially aggression and violence (Beaver, 2013). Although Wright, Tibbets, and Daigle (2008) caution that some of the conclusions drawn from research into variations in brain structure and functioning are still preliminary and not well-established, the fact that there is a link between said variations and criminal violence is clear.

Two primary sections of the brain have been linked to the development of aggressive behaviors, primarily through the development of strong emotional responses combined with limited rational ability to regulate said responses: the limbic system and the frontal lobe. It is worth noting that multiple brain structures have been implicated in affecting behavior in addition to these two regions, especially the midbrain area including the pituitary, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus, caudate nucleus, and ventral tegmental area (Wright et al., 2008).

Within the limbic system, the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions and partially responsible for memory, has been found to directly influence changes in violent or hostile activity (Wright et al., 2008). Also in the limbic system, the hippocampus, which is the primary memory center in the brain, is responsible for individuals' ability to anticipate or comprehend cause-effect relationships; an ability that has been found lacking in criminals, especially in violent offenders (Wright et al., 2008). Wright et al. (2008) state that these two brain structures, working together, are believed to be the most important sections of the brain that control emotions, survival responses (e.g. fight or flight response), and social responses (e.g. jealousy, anger). In addition, neuroimaging studies show structural and functional differences in the limbic systems of psychopaths as opposed to non-psychopaths, and spouse abusers have more active limbic systems combined with lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is examined below, than non-spouse abusers (Beaver, 2013).

The frontal lobe, which is the anterior portion of the cerebral cortex and located right behind the forehead, is the brain structure most implicated in the development of criminality (Wright et al., 2008). A healthy frontal lobe controls emotional impulses and drives rational thought, with injury to the area affecting an individual’s ability to control emotional impulses; in fact, damage to the frontal lobe results in severe mood changes, inflexibility in cognition, and a high inclination toward violent behavior (Wright et al., 2008). According to Wright et al. (2008), studies have linked frontal lobe damage to feelings of indifference toward the consequences of affected individuals’ behavior as well as impulsiveness. It is also important to note that the frontal lobe does not become fully developed until the mid- to late twenties as opposed to the limbic system, which becomes fully developed around the onset of puberty (Beaver, 2013).While this last fact could help explain the onset of delinquent and antisocial behaviors in adolescence and the “aging-out” of criminal involvement by most youth, it is also important when considering the ability of individuals to control emotional impulses.

Beaver (2013) describes the current state of research into brain structure and function with regard to criminality best, stating that empirical evidence supports the theory that both brain structure and function are directly associated with violence, psychopathy, and psychopathic personality traits. Further, the research has shown that criminals and individuals exhibiting antisocial phenotypes possess variations in brain structure and function that increase activity in the limbic system while also possessing an underactive frontal lobe (Beaver, 2013). In effect, the brain is unable to regulate impulses and emotions properly in criminally violent individuals.

References:

Beaver, K. (2013). Biosocial criminology: a primer. (2nd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt

Wright, J.P., Tibbetts, S.G., & Daigle, L.E. (2008). Criminals in the making: criminality across the life course. Los Angeles: Sage.

"Broken Windows" Policing

Wilson and Kelling (in Cole & Gertz, 2013) discuss the concept of the “broken windows” theory which, in summary, posits that disorderly or unruly behaviors left unchecked lead to greater disorder and, possibly, criminal behavior. In an effort to maintain order in a neighborhood, and thus attempt to mitigate or reduce potential criminal behaviors, police officers often utilize their authority to remove potential threats to order through charges with little legal meaning such as “suspicious person,” “vagrancy,” or “public drunkenness” (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). The decriminalization of such behaviors, or the cessation of treating such behaviors as illegal, removes an invaluable tool from law enforcement officials in maintaining order within neighborhoods and, by extension, invites a rise in disorder that could lead to increased criminal activity. In short, Wilson and Kelling’s (in Cole & Gertz, 2013) declaration that the decriminalization of disreputable behavior is a mistake is accurate.

In order to better understand why Wilson and Kelling are correct in their assertion, a more in-depth look at the “broken windows” theory is first necessary. In 1969, Philip Zimbardo conducted experiments to test the broken-window theory. He arranged to have an automobile without license plates with its hood up placed in the Bronx, and a comparable vehicle placed in Palo Alto, California (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). Vandals attacked the vehicle in the Bronx within ten minutes, and everything of value was stripped within twenty-four hours; random destruction of the vehicle began shortly afterward (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). The vehicle in Palo Alto remained untouched for more than a week, until Zimbardo smashed part of the vehicle in with a sledgehammer; within a few hours, the vehicle had been turned upside down and destroyed (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).

Zimbardo’s experiment highlights the core idea behind the broken-window theory: one broken window, if left untended, indicates a lack of concern about a location and invites more broken windows. Similarly, one undeterred panhandler in a neighborhood becomes the first “broken window,” and if law enforcement or concerned citizens cannot keep a single panhandler from annoying passersby then opportunistic criminals may believe their chances of being caught or identified in such a neighborhood are greatly diminished (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).

There are, of course, concerns that the utilization of the aforementioned charges to maintain order within a neighborhood may infringe on an individual’s rights or be applied inequitably by police officers. According to Wilson and Kelling (in Cole & Gertz, 2013), there may be agreement on certain behaviors that male a person undesirable, but there must also be assurance that age, skin color, national origin, harmless mannerisms, or other such factors do not become the basis for distinguishing between undesirable and desirable persons within a neighborhood. There is not a wholly satisfactory answer to such a concern, aside from the hope that the selection, training, and supervision of police officers results in a clear sense of the limit of their discretionary authority (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).

The broken-window theory suggests that minor disturbances and undesirable behaviors in a neighborhood, if left unchecked, lead to greater disorder and potentially criminal behavior. Such behaviors also create a sense of fear in residents of those neighborhoods, which leads to people avoiding one another and weakening controls in the neighborhood (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013) and thus inviting further disorder. By utilizing charges of “suspicious person,” “vagrancy,” and “public drunkenness” police officers are able to help maintain order and, subsequently, reduce fear and the potential for crime legally. To decriminalize such behaviors would reduce the ability of police officers to assist neighborhoods in maintaining order, and would certainly be a mistake.

Sources:

Cole, G. & M. Gertz (eds.) (2012). The criminal justice system: Politics and policies, 10th ed. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth.

Worrall, J. (2008). Crime control in America: What works? 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson.

Reflecting on Apple

After taking some time to ponder the announcements made at the recent Apple event, and after spending some time reading the various analyses from others, a few things really jump out at me that I think warrant examining closer.First and foremost, the move to a 64-bit architecture and operating system may seem like nothing more than an attempt to be able to say "hey, we've got something no one else has" and capitalize on such a statement from a purely marketing standpoint. If we were discussing another company, I might even be inclined to agree. Here's the problem with such a statement, though: Apple has never used such a tactic before, and always looks at what adopting any technology will bring to the customer experience.Note, if you can't accept that simple understanding behind the way Apple operates, you might want to stop reading now.So, what possibilities could a 64-bit architecture bring to a mobile device? Efficiency and performance are obvious possibilities, as are pure power and capabilities, but in this case I think the move hints at some really interesting possibilities. (It's worth interjecting here that there is an excellent analysis of some of those possibilities with regards to other product lines here, which I noticed courtesy of Gruber at Daring Fireball.) One possibility is the implementation of enhanced/increased multitasking capabilities as a result of increased throughput throughout the system. Another is the potential for refinements in power usage and efficiency (think along the lines of using multiple threads to achieve a process in a shorter time, which lowers the power drain of a system by returning to idle quicker). Honestly, this isn't an area I'm well-versed in, but I can certainly see the potential.Another thought that sticks out to me regarding the performance improvements of the A7 and the move to a 64-bit OS lies in conjunction with the fingerprint sensor. Utilizing any strong encryption scheme requires some overhead, especially when considering that the need for seamless and snappy response are of paramount importance to an end user. This could easily be the groundwork necessary for re-imagining security on a mobile device. Imagine using the Touch ID sensor to access iCloud keychain (when released) data, and instead of having to remember or enter a security code the fingerprint takes care of verification? Or if access to Touch ID by third parties is allowed, and you no longer have to sign in to your banking/financial applications? Running on a system designed to leverage the performance gains of a 64-bit system certainly seems like a precursor to a smooth transition to seamless interaction in such a manner.And then there's the interesting idea that increased security might finally allow the virtualization of debit and credit cards in Passbook. Imagine if the entire Operating System could be run in an encrypted environment, which would only be possible (when considering the necessity of smooth and snappy operation from the customer experience point of view) with the power and performance possibilities a 64-bit system could bring to the table. This could prove to be the way to finally change the way people access financial resources, much like the oft-touted NFC chip promised but couldn't deliver.Naturally this is all speculation, but the key takeaway is this: if you don't understand that Apple only adopts technology when there's a reason behind the decision that's aimed at what it means for customers, then you haven't been paying attention to history. Sure, there are plenty of devices with different feature sets, and you should always choose the device whose features match what you want out of it, but to look at Apple's iPhone business as faltering or running out of steam is to look only at the current picture and not think about the foundation it suddenly created.

The Efficient and Effective Use of Investigators

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The efficient and effective use of detectives and detective resources to investigate criminal offenses is strongly influenced by the policies and practices surrounding case assignment to investigators. By first understanding the nature and effectiveness of investigative operations, a clearer picture of how the assignment of cases affects police outputs and outcomes emerges. In addition, the subsequent understanding that it is not only inefficient, but also ineffective, to assign all unsolved cases to detectives provides practical insight for police administrators to utilize in developing strategies for case assignment polices.

Although variations in activities performed by investigators will be evident across differing departments, Chaiken et al. (1977) found that an approximation of ninety-three percent of investigators' time is spent on activities that are not directly related to solving previously reported crimes, based on the Kansas City Police Department's case assignments. Through an examination of the aforementioned cases, reviews with investigators from other cities, and comparisons to their own study's observational notes, Chaiken et al. (1977) conclude that the aforementioned approximation of time applies to other departments as well. It is therefore imperative to understand what activities comprise the bulk of investigators' time. Roughly forty-five percent of investigators' time is spent on activities such as administrative assignments, traveling, general surveillance, and making speeches, which are not case-specific activities; another twenty-two percent of investigators' time, again roughly estimated, is spent on crimes that are never solved (Chaiken et al., 1977). This leaves an estimated thirty-three percent of investigators' time spent on cases that are solved, but of that total about twenty-six percent is spent on work related to cleared cases after they have been solved, which includes preparing cases for court (Chaiken et al., 1977).

While much of the aforementioned data on the percentages of time investigators spend on certain activities provides insights into potential organizational restructuring and reallocation of duties to increase the effectiveness of detectives, that is beyond the scope of this article; recognizing and understanding that approximately seven percent of investigators' time is spent actually performing investigative work, and that twenty-two percent of their time is spent on cases that go unsolved, clearly illustrates that the structure and determination of case assignments significantly impacts investigators' outputs. Further, a significant amount of the time spent on unsolved crimes could theoretically be reallocated to increasing investigator effectiveness through strategic case assignment practices. Before examining case assignment practices, however, it is necessary to first understand the strongest indicator of whether or not a case will be solved: information.

The availability and reliability of information received by police about incidents and offenders directly impacts the ability of police officers to solve crimes and identify and apprehend those who commit crimes (Skogan and Antunes, 1979). In fact, as cited by Skogan and Antunes (1979), the RAND Corporation concluded an analysis of the criminal investigation process in 1975 with the finding that the information a victim supplies to the responding patrol officer is the single most important determinant of whether a case will be solved; if information that uniquely identifies the offender is not supplied, the likelihood of the perpetrator being identified is reduced exponentially. Brandl and Frank (1994) provide further support for the conclusion that the amount and quality of information available to the police is of paramount importance in their study of burglary and robbery cases assigned to investigators in a Midwestern municipal police department from July 1, 1989 through June 30, 1990, though it should be noted that their study was aimed at identifying the impact of time spent on cases compared to the amount of information available.

Identifying the significant findings of Brandl and Frank’s (1994) analysis plays a key role in understanding how case assignment practices impact the efficiency and effectiveness of investigators, especially when examined in conjunction with Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis. Eck (1992) posited that cases may be divided into three groups, though the groups most likely represent a range along a continuum: 1) cases that cannot be solved with a reasonable investigative effort, 2) cases solved by circumstance, which only require proper follow-up activities by police, and 3) cases that may be solved with a reasonable investigative effort but that will not be solved otherwise. Combined with Brandl and Frank’s (1994) finding that cases wherein moderate information about a suspect is available the probability of an arrest increased significantly with more investigative time, as well as the finding that investigators spent more time on cases with moderate suspect information available than on cases where information was strong or weak, Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis provides a solid framework from which case assignment strategies may be devised.

Using Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis as a guideline, case assignments may be distributed to investigators or specialized teams based on a number of factors: the type of criminal offense, the amount of information available about the perpetrator(s), and whether the specialized knowledge and training of a detective is necessary or if routine follow-up is all that is required to close the case. This not only serves the purpose of increasing efficiency through the reallocation of police resources, such as utilizing clerical support staff in documenting and filing away an unsolvable case, but also significantly increases the effectiveness of investigative personnel by only being assigned cases that possess some measure of potential solvability, except as noted below. Understanding the impact of such a system is best understood through an analysis of Chaiken et al.’s (1977) findings on which actions investigators are typically assigned may be shifted to other personnel.

Patrol officers who are trained as generalist-investigators, according to Chaiken et al. (1977), may be utilized to supplement investigative activities and shift some responsibilities that do not require specialized investigative skills away from detectives, thereby freeing up the time of detectives for devotion to cases wherein some suspect information is known but the case is not solvable without an investment of effort. Such responsibilities would include the apprehension of suspects in cases where the identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators is known at the time of the crime as well as routine investigative actions such as listing stolen automobiles in the “hot car” file, asking victims to look through previously assembled mug shot collections, awaiting calls with further information from the public, and tracing ownership of weapons utilized in crimes; further, for cases where little or no information is available about an offender, generalist-investigators may serve the public relations duty of demonstrating that the police care about the victim and the crime without tying up the time of detectives (Chaiken et al., 1977).

The aforementioned generalist-investigator function would directly relate to Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis by assigning cases solved by circumstance to support personnel within the police department, allowing the other two groups of cases to be assigned to specialized divisions. One such division, the Major Offenses Unit as defined by Chaiken et al. (1977), would receive all unsolved serious crime cases, both belonging to Eck’s (1992) unsolvable cases group and the solvable with investigative effort group. The assignment of unsolvable cases to a specialized unit may seem counterintuitive, however this would serve the function of ensuring that all major crimes receive attention in an effort to both demonstrate that the police care about those crimes that most severely impact the public, and the assurance that any later leads on unsolved cases that may be discovered through the investigation of other crimes will not be overlooked as a result of separate case assignments among individual investigators.

Finally, using a similar approach as the aforementioned Major Offenses Unit and drawing upon the research of Skogan and Antunes (1979) regarding increasing police productivity, traditional detectives would be assigned to policing teams, additionally comprised of patrol officers and generalist-investigators, who would be responsible for all police activities within a specified geographic area, with the exception of those cases that would be transferred to the Major Offense Unit. These teams would be assigned all non-serious crimes that fall into Eck’s (1992) solvable with investigative effort category, while those crimes that are deemed unsolvable are shifted to clerical support staff for documentation and filing. Naturally some overlap could occur, since the generalist-investigators and patrol officers in these teams would also be working on those cases solvable by circumstance, but this would serve the important responsibility of providing detectives more time to focus on those crimes within their assigned regions that may be solvable with investigative effort.

Although imperfect, the proposed modifications in utilizing detective resources and time, as well as that of support personnel, present a step forward in increasing efficiency and effectiveness, thereby contributing directly to investigators’ outputs. Police administrators seeking to strategically restructure case assignment policies will be well served to utilize Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis and Brandl and Frank’s (1994) supporting work as a framework from which justification for the reassignment of cases to either support personnel, generalist-investigators, detectives working in policing teams, or a Major Offenses Unit is clearly illustrated.

Sources:

Brandl, S. and Frank, J. (1994) The Relationship Between Evidence, Detective Effort, and the Disposition of Burglary and Robbery Investigations, American Journal of Police, 13: 149‑168.

Chaiken, J.M., Greenwood, P.W., & Petersilia, J. (1977). The Criminal Investigation Process: A Summary Report, Policy Analysis, 3:187-218.

Eck, J. (1992). “Criminal Investigation” in Donna Hale and Gary Cordner (eds.) What Works in Policing (Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing) pp. 19-34.

Skogan, W. G., and Antunes, G. E. "Information, Apprehension and Deterrence: Exploring the Limits of Police Productivity," in David Bayley (ed.) What Works in Policing. (Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing) Chapter 4, pp. 108-137

Moving Forward: Utilizing a Developmental Model in the Juvenile Justice System

The developmental model of juvenile justice advocated by Scott and Steinberg (2008) identifies major guiding principles necessary for successful reform of the juvenile court and, listed with the concerns they are designed to address, are as follows: 1) the implementation of proportionate sentences with sufficiently narrow ranges in order to promote fairness and limit possible abuses due to bias as a result of broad judicial or prosecutorial discretion, 2) restrictive transfer rules that enable the juvenile court to maintain jurisdiction over the majority of adolescents in an effort to minimize the potential harm exposure to the criminal court poses on adolescent offenders' development, 3) the implementation of empirically supported treatment programs in conjunction with punitive sanctions that promote healthy development of youth in all jurisdictions, 4) intensive interventions in the lives of very young serious offenders to hopefully successfully intervene in the potential development of chronic, serious offenders, 5) and extended dispositional jurisdiction over youth entering the juvenile justice system at a later age in order to maintain fairness in sentencing as well as the application of proportionate punitive sanctions. The reforms suggested are not a drastic departure from the traditional juvenile court, but include significant changes in policy and procedure designed to remedy the shortcomings of its original implementation. At the same time, these guidelines are a significant departure from the recent focus on purely punitive sanctioning models prevalent in the contemporary juvenile justice system.

It should be noted that these proposed guidelines do present their own set of limitations. Some youth possess a history of antisocial behavior and do not fit within the normal pattern of adolescent offending that is driven by developmental influences (Scott and Steinberg, 2008). These youth may enter the justice system facing serious charges and may have a substantial criminal record by mid-adolescence; though such youth represent a very small percentage of youthful offenders, they pose a significant threat to public safety and do not fit the developmental model advocated thus far (Scott and Steinberg, 2008). Scott and Steinberg (2008) acknowledge that successful identification and intervention in the lives of these youth poses a daunting challenge, and the potential for disproportionate sentencing and excessive punishment is inherent in such interventions, especially if the same programs utilized are not available to all youth. While a single model for the juvenile court will not yield positive outcomes for all youth, the developmental model aims to provide a framework of stable, satisfactory responses to juvenile delinquency that promotes the social welfare of youth while holding adolescents accountable, although to a lesser degree than adults, for their actions.

The examination of the developmental model above raises an interesting question: in light of the shift to contemporary policies and practices in juvenile justice, are political leaders, practitioners, and the public willing to take a different approach to juvenile justice? Interestingly enough, many state legislatures are already moving toward more moderate policies as the high economic costs of recent reforms and the impact of harsher sanctions for such young offenders begin to be realized (Scott and Steinberg, 2008). Further, research by Scott and Steinberg (2008) shows that public attitudes toward juvenile justice are hardened immediately after a highly publicized offense, but soften and trend more toward rehabilitation after some time passes. In fact, surveys consistently indicate that the preferences of the public align more with the proposals presented by the developmental model presented than with the current, contemporary regime (Scott and Steinberg, 2008).

Support for the developmental model is further emphasized by recent news throughout the United States. On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court barred mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder, indicating a shift in viewing youthful felons from irredeemable predators to victims of circumstance that possess the potential for rehabilitation (Bronner, 2012). A report published in June 2013 identified nine states that previously incarcerated youth at high rates that have enacted policies that shift the majority of young offenders toward community interventions (Rosales, 2013). Some states have reversed changes that lowered the age at which youthful offenders were automatically transferred to the criminal court, including Connecticut, a state that once sent the highest number of juveniles to the adult court (Chen, 2010). Georgia legislators unanimously passed major reforms implementing new sentencing laws that keep non-violent drug and property offenders out of prison and directing them to intervention programs and graduated scales of punishment, and are looking to do something similar for the juvenile justice system (The Economist, 2013). Finally, in Illinois, the state most credit with the establishment of the juvenile court, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission published a report condemning the state youth prison system and finding that the majority of incarcerated young offenders would be better served in treatment or educational programs (NPR, 2012).

It is evident that the traditional model of the juvenile justice system was ineffective in dealing with the problem of adolescent crime. It is just as evident that the contemporary approach to punitive sanctions and incarceration has been ineffective in remedying the shortcomings of the traditional model. The developmental model advocated by Scott and Steinberg (2008) provides a framework to address the shortcomings of the traditional model with regards to accountability and responsibility of youthful offenders, while also promoting the social welfare of juveniles and basing sentencing and disposition on empirically supported treatments and interventions. Further supporting the work of Scott and Steinberg (2008), recent reforms and research on public preferences and perspectives align with the guidelines advocated by the developmental model of juvenile justice.

Sources:

Scott, E., & Steinberg, L. (2008). Rethinking Juvenile Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bronner, E. (2012, June 26). News Analysis - Ruling Reflects Rethinking on Juvenile Justice - NYTimes.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/us/news-analysis-ruling-reflects-rethinking-on-juvenile-justice.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Chen, S. (2010, January 15). States rethink 'adult time for adult crime' - CNN.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/01/15/connecticut.juvenile.ages/index.html#cnnSTCText

The Economist (2013, February 2). Juvenile justice: Suffer the children | The Economist. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21571176-georgia-rethinks-how-its-justice-system-deals-young-offenders-suffer-children

NPR (2012, April 18). Kids Behind Bars: Illinois Rethinks Juvenile Justice : NPR. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from http://www.npr.org/2012/08/18/159131971/illinois-seeks-new-approach-to-juvenile-justice

Rosalas, C. (2013, June 18). Report singles out 9 states, including Texas, for turnaround in adopting policies to reduce youth incarceration | Crime Blog. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from http://crimeblog.dallasnews.com/2013/06/report-singles-out-9-states-including-texas-for-turnaround-in-adopting-policies-to-reduce-youth-incarceration.html/

Balancing Individualized Treatment with Legislative Restrictions in the JJS

Balancing individualized, offender-based treatments with the need for consistency and proportionate sanctions has been a subject of ongoing debate and criticism regarding the juvenile court. In an effort to maintain balance between these two goals, sentencing guidelines and systems of graduated sanctions with targeted treatment have been enacted within the juvenile justice system in various jurisdictions. The question still remains, however, of whether these approaches help maintain the aforementioned balance, and at what expense?

Many states have enacted guidelines for graduated sanctioning systems, modeled to a considerable extent on the Comprehensive Strategy released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to provide offense-based, tiered levels of increasingly stricter sanctions while also suggesting rehabilitative strategies where appropriate, in an effort to maintain individualized sanctioning of youthful offenders and to emphasize the need for, and use of, risk and needs assessments (Mears, 2002). In similar fashion, and to a large extent the same mentality behind the development of the Comprehensive Strategy, graduated sanctions and incentives are key components of many intervention programs (Kurlychek, 1999).

In conjunction with the aforementioned guidelines, sentencing guides also play a major role in the determination of treatment for youth adjudicated delinquent in the juvenile court. These guides aim to provide consistent and proportionate sanctions against offenders brought before the juvenile court in an effort to reduce or eliminate the potential for abuse of the discretionary authority of juvenile court judges, especially in light of research indicating that the court could be used to provide a form of social control over various targeted populations (Mears, 2002). According to Mears (2002), these guidelines are voluntary in some states, are mandatory in others, and in some states incentives are provided to promote use of the guidelines.

Taken together, sentencing guidelines and the implementation of graduated sanctions that include targeted treatment could provide a framework that assists the juvenile justice system in maintaining balance between individualized treatment and sanctioning, consistency and proportionality in sentencing, and balancing the community needs for retribution, incapacitation of serious and chronic offenders, and specific and general deterrence. However, this balance is not evident in practice with current sentencing guidelines. Most state guideline systems utilize offense-based criteria for the determination of sanctions to be applied, and the priority often shifts from addressing the needs of the offender to punitive sanctions (Mears, 2002). In fact, with sentencing guidelines in many jurisdictions, prosecutors become the determiner of whether and how to file charges, and often that discretion is coupled with legislative action in jurisdictions that impose automatic sanctions for specific offenses (Mears, 2002). This shift in discretion to prosecutors effectively eliminates the ability of the juvenile court to balance the needs of the offender, the circumstances surrounding the offense, and potential risk of re-offending when sentencing occurs.

As evident in the information provided, sanctioning guidelines are not effective in providing balanced, individualized sanctions for youthful offenders, though they do provide consistency in sanctioning within jurisdictions. A system of graduated sanctions that is coupled with targeted treatment for youthful offenders, however, is both recommended and empirically supported as a response for the treatment of juvenile offenders according to Kurlychek (1999), and as noted by the research-based, data-driven, and outcome-focused approach and success of the comprehensive strategy developed by the OJJDP (Howell, 2003). Utilizing these two systems together, and providing some discretion to the juvenile court during disposition of a case in order to lessen automatic sanctions against first time offenders or those unlikely to re-offend, creates a framework that can be applied across jurisdictions without irrevocably negatively impacting the life course of those offenders found to be less culpable during the time within which they are subject to the authority of the juvenile court.

It should also be noted, however, that reliance solely on systems of graduated sanctions is not a perfect approach. While considerable progress has been made in the identification of major risk factors that lead to delinquent behavior (and therefore influence the nature and focus of recommendations for the rehabilitative components found within systems of graduated sanctions and targeted treatments) much of the research on protective factors, as well as longitudinal studies that will provide more accurate information about the causes of delinquency than cross-sectional studies to date, is still in its infancy (Howell, 2003). With additional research and study, these components can be added to risk and needs assessment tools to further enhance and modify guidelines for use by the juvenile justice system in promoting effectively balanced, consistent, and proportionate sentencing of youthful offenders that encompasses each of the goals of the juvenile court while maintaining the rehabilitative and targeted, individualized treatment component.

Sources:

Howell, J.C. (2003). Diffusing research into practice using the comprehensive strategy for serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders. Youth Violence & Juvenile Justice 1: 219-245.

Kurlychek, M., Torbet, P., & Boznyski, M. (1999). Focus on Accountability: Best Practices for Juvenile Court and Probation. U.S Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington DC.

Mears, D. (2002). Sentencing guidelines and transformation of juvenile justice in the 21st century. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 18: 6-19.