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Darrell Huff wrote a classic book in 1954: How to Lie With Statistics. Heather MacDonald’s argumentative column in the Wall Street Journal (May 29, 2015) predicting a new crime wave in our country would have been prime fodder for a chapter in Huff’s book.

Huff’s chapters offered object lessons in ways that journalists use statistics to confuse and deceive readers. MacDonald overstated the strength of the evidence she cited to support the purported crime wave. Worse, however, was her deliberate and systematic withholding of data, the erroneous conclusions based upon them, and the failure to note that researchers have not yet validated the effectiveness of the broken window theory (Kelling & Wilson, 1982).

Broken window theory assumes that crime and disorder, like ham and eggs, are inextricably linked. If a window in a house is broken and not fixed, it is assumed that more windows will be broken, whether the house is located in Watts or in West Palm Beach. The broken window represents a lack of caring, an invitation to break more windows. Thus, the failure of the police to arrest lawbreakers, regardless of the crime, invites committing more crimes. The strict enforcement of the law, however, subsequently results in fewer crimes. Similarly, the “Ferguson effect” refers to police officers “disengaging from discretionary law enforcement.”

For the same reason that a family of four does not need four washing machines or four swimming pools, each police officer in the nation does not need a body camera, an assault weapon, a motorcycle, and a police car. The White House believes otherwise. This week, President Obama proposed new initiatives, potentially costing taxpayers’ $263,000,000—including the purchase of 50,000 body cameras for police officers. The Anaheim City Council recently approved spending $1,150,000 on body cameras for its officers, despite lacking any substantive evidence of their effectiveness to achieve the Council’s stated purpose: increasing trust and transparency (White, 2014).

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The given reason for needing 50,000 body cameras? To improve community relations between citizens and law enforcement. These initiatives, however, as anyone knows who has watched television or read a newspaper on any day during the past few weeks, are principally the residue of protests and riots that ignited in Ferguson, Missouri. Squandering taxpayers’ dollars on 50,000 body cameras hoping to stop such events, however, ignores the genesis of the mayhem: long-term, complex socioeconomic and cultural factors and the nation’s racial divide.

This week, David Brooks (2014) addressed class prejudice and race in a New York Times editorial: “There has been a migration away from prejudice based on genetics to prejudice based on class. . . . We once again have a sharp social divide between people who live in the ‘respectable’ meritocracy and those who live beyond it. In one world almost everybody you meet has at least been to college, and people have very little contact with features that are sometimes a part of the other world: prison, meth, payday loans, a flowering of nonmarriage family forms.” Brooks contends that Americans “need to improve our capacity for sympathetic understanding, our capacity to imaginatively place ourselves in the minds of other people with experiences different from our own.” He cites the need for a common project, suggesting a national collaboration “to improve social mobility for the poor of all races,” which he concludes will decrease classism, social distance, and racial prejudice. This recommendation will never see the light of day in Washington because our leaders believe that spending money is always the best problem solver.

How many hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent since 1960 hoping to improve student achievement in U.S. public schools? Despite the staggering amounts, as I pointed in a previous post, student test scores in reading and mathematics have remained flat for decades (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). But just as the Anaheim City Council approved the purchase of police body cameras, not yet a validated technology, Congress will undoubtedly approve spending millions of dollars to buy 50,000 body cameras.

In the meantime, the substantive problems will remain unaddressed—including the disproportionate number of Black inmates in U.S. federal and state prisons (Bureau of Prisons, 2014). Among the 1,517,000 adult inmates during 2013, 549,100 (38%) were Black, although they constituted only 13% of the nation’s population. Body cameras and money, although visible, will remain worthless tools for preventing future disorders and addressing class prejudice, socioeconomic and cultural factors, the racial divide, and the nation’s prison population.

References

Brooks, D. (2014, December 1). Class prejudice resurgent. New York Times. Retrieved from http://nyti.ms/11LEbZW

Bureau of Prisons. (2014). Inmate race. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/pgmqqg7

National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). The nation’s report card: Trends in academic progress. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/oczx9p2

White, M. (2014). Police officer body-worn cameras: Assessing the evidence. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/3p2jfv8

—Hugh Glenn

Elevating substandard school performance is not easy. Ironically, factors that least affect student achievement (e.g., tests, technology, money spent) are the factors most often debated. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to implement the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, yet neither scores in reading nor mathematics improved significantly during the years that followed. Long-term improvement in student performance has never resulted from spending more money, as I previously pointed out (Glenn, 2014).

Researcher John Hattie at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, has identified factors that matter as far as student achievement is concerned (and factors that don’t matter). Regardless of the structure of schools or classes, almost without exception, the presence or use of any factor is positively related to school progress. In other words, if students have a pulse, they learn—regardless of school type, teaching methods, online or
on-campus instruction, and scores of other factors.

Analyzing data collected from 250,000 students, Hattie (2009) used effect size* to measure the influence of almost 200 factors, completing more than 800 meta-analyses. When including all factors, he found an average (mean) effect size of 0.4. Overall, students improved academically regardless of the activity, condition, or instruction; whether they attended small classes, multigrade classes, or single-gender classes; whether grouped based upon age or ability; whether schools used a year-round schedule or the traditional two-semester schedule—or whether enrolled in a public, private, or charter school.

Two factors were found that negatively affected student achievement: retention (–0.16) and student mobility (–0.34). In other words, the majority of students who repeated a grade fell further behind as did students whose families relocated excessively.

Following are selected factors Hattie examined and the corresponding effect size for each factor. The effect size of each of the factors below is less than the effect size of scores of other factors; in other words, many other factors influence student achievement significantly more than any of these factors (click figure to enlarge):

 

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If these factors do not influence student performance, which factors do? Hattie’s principal finding: More than any other factor, teachers matter. Teacher feedback (.73) and teacher-student relationships (.72), for example, are examples of large effect sizes, factors that significantly influence student achievement.

Hattie (2009) stated: “When students were asked about their best teachers, the common attributes were teachers who built relationships with students, teachers who helped students to have different and better strategies or processes to learn the subject, and teachers who demonstrated a willingness to explain material and help students with their work” (p. 108). It is worth noting that researchers have found that students do not associate their best teachers with factors such as requiring students to meet standards, complete homework assignments, pass skills tests, record satisfactory annual yearly progress, or value high course grades.

Source

Cohen, J. (1977). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Routledge.

Glenn, H. (2014). Common Core: Another stairway to nowhere. See http://tinyurl.com/n9pymaw.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

—Hugh Glenn

*Effect size is used to quantify a (standardized) difference between groups. A large effect size of 1.0 (standard deviation) represents approximately one year of growth on a school achievement test. A small effect size (0.2 or 1/5 standard deviation) has been found for charter schools. 

For an explanation of effect size, see http://tinyurl.com/lw96t6j.

“Election season often brings out the ugliest in people. Negative attack ads and misrepresentations have become commonplace” (Orange County Register, 2014). No greater misrepresentations have been made toward opponents during this election than ones by Tom Tait, Anaheim’s mayor. Tait has indirectly accused two council members running for re-election, Gail Eastman and Kris Murray, of (a) betraying the public trust, asserting that each collected $500,000+ in campaign contributions from special interest groups, and (b) misrepresenting their voting for a subsidy to build a four-star hotel in Anaheim.

I use the word indirectly because the mailed campaign ad originated from California Homeowners Association (2014) in Willows, CA (500 miles north of Anaheim via I-5), an organization describing itself as “support[ing] fiscally responsible candidates for public office.” Ironically, this same special interest group, a PAC, has funneled $100,000 into the “attack Eastman & Murray–re-elect Tait campaign.”

False accusations. Eastman and Murray have not betrayed the pubic trust and each has not collected $500,000+ in campaign contributions—accusations by Tait for which no evidence has been presented.

Gross misrepresentation. It is common practice for cities to offer incentives to developers to build large hotels and sports stadiums. Cities contribute to a project because they want to collect millions of dollars from hotel taxes and sales taxes. The Los Angeles City Council awarded $500,000,000 in tax incentives for downtown economic development for 2015-2016 (Los Angeles Times, 2014). If the Anaheim Convention Center fails to increase its space, major conventions will meet elsewhere, as will conventions with increasing participants who previously met in Anaheim. Some organizations will meet elsewhere if Anaheim lacks sufficient rooms in first-rate hotels, ones that fulfill the needs of conventioneers (and more affluent families visiting the Disney Resort). These four-star hotels will be built eventually—in Anaheim or in a city nearly (e.g., Hyatt Regency in Garden Grove).

Gross misrepresentation. It is common practice for cities to offer incentives to developers to build large hotels and sports stadiums. Cities contribute to a project because they want to collect millions of dollars from hotel taxes and sales taxes.

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My morning cup of Newman’s Special Blend (extra bold) suddenly tasted bitter after reading the editorial on the front page of the Opinion section of Sunday’s Orange County Register (OCR). The meaning of biased and sometimes unwarranted criticism was clear: kudos to Tom Tait, Anaheim’s mayor; boos to Curt Pringle, the city’s former mayor. picket

The editorial began, “Election season often brings out the ugliest in people [and in editorials]. Negative attack ads and misrepresentations have become commonplace. . . . Local politics are often the nastiest of all. . . . Some of the most deceptive campaign efforts, misinformation and negativity this election cycle are coming from two of the county’s largest and most prominent cities: Anaheim and Irvine.“ To these distinguished sources of misinformation and negativity, I nominate the addition of the Orange County Register.

The OCR’s editorial board accuses Pringle of “running a shameful smear campaign against Mayor Tom Tait,” who is applauded for opposing the “alarmingly lucrative deals lobbied for by Pringle” [and his allies]. He is criticized for supporting a tax incentive to build a new hotel in Anaheim near Disneyland and the convention center.

In fact, more hotels are needed in Anaheim to accommodate the ever-increasing number of visitors and conventioneers. To fulfill the needs of larger organizations and associations, the convention center must grow to ensure that Anaheim is selected as the convention city instead of groups choosing cities with larger convention centers and enough hotel rooms to house participants. Building hotels and adding space to a convention center is part of economic growth. If Anaheim wants tax revenues and sales taxes from future conventions, it must add convention center space and build hotels.

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This week, the Orange County Register (OCR, 2014) endorsed the re-election of Tom Tait as Anaheim’s mayor, calling him the “best [candidate] to lead the city.” Examining the rationale presented in its endorsement, however, I found little to justify the paper’s support.

The OCR cited Tait’s quelling anger and potential violence following riots during 2012 and supporting citizens’ oversight of the city’s police department.

t8The paper applauded Tait’s “dissenting voice,” a council member who consistently votes no “on numerous issues.” It cited Tait as the only council member to oppose a tax incentive to build a hotel near Disneyland and the city’s convention center.

Voting to approve a tax incentive to developers is not unusual, so voting no is not necessarily a virtue. The Los Angeles City Council awarded $500,000,000 in tax incentives for downtown economic development for 2015-2016 (Los Angeles Times, 2014).

Whether to offer a tax incentive depends on several factors; for example, (a) the need for a hotel that satisfies current convention needs and its potential to attract larger future conventions, (b) the return on investment that taxpayers would receive by building a hotel, and, most important, (c) whether not offering an incentive means not building a hotel and losing tax revenues. Tait’s vote seems like a no vote without consideration of positive aspects of providing a tax incentive.

Yes, Tait talks about transparency (endlessly), but the OCR did not cite any evidence of increased governmental transparency in Anaheim since he has been mayor. Transparency was confused with Tait’s rigidity and public comments that torpedoed the city’s negotiations with the Angels. And there is a difference between publicly discussing unfunded pension liabilities and solving this problem.

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The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) signed by President Lyndon Johnson was revised seven times, most recently by President George Bush when he approved No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002). The effect on student performance of NCLB was near zero, so the Obama administration created a new program, Race to the Top, excusing states from fulfilling the goals of NCLB if they agreed to adopt Common Core: assumed educational standards or instructional goals in English and mathematics for all students in all grades. Nevertheless, it is asserted that Common Core is not a national curriculum (Common Core State Standards, 2014a).

StairsTo date, 43 states, including California, have adopted Common Core for use in public schools. It is just as likely, however, that its effect will the same as previously adopted educational programs supported by the federal government to increase student achievement: zero effect.

Despite the spending of billions of dollars by the federal and state governments, reading and math scores of students aged 9, 13, and 17 years on measures such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (2013) have remained almost unchanged for more than 40 years. This figure shows reading scores (1971-2012)—although math scores during the same period are almost a mirror image:

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Measure L amends the Anaheim City Charter to require the City Council to establish voter districts. A candidate seeking a seat on the city council must live within a given district, and only voters residing within that district may vote for that candidate.

L PICCurrently, members of the City Council may live anywhere in Anaheim, and voters may vote for any candidate. What is the need to change the current process: to establish voter districts and to limit an individual’s vote to one candidate?

The “impartial analysis” of Measure L by the Anaheim City Attorney is, indeed, impartial (Houston, 2014). He explains the differences between voting for council members “at large” from voting for a single candidate. Absolutely nothing in his analysis provides any need or basis for changing the current election process. The entire text of proposed amendments to Anaheim’s City Charter can be read online (City of Anaheim, 2014).

The argument supporting Measure L by Mayor Tait and Council Member Brandman (2014) consists of banality (e.g., Anaheim is a great place to live; Council members will become more effective) and nonsense (e.g., Anaheim will become less wonderful [if Measure L fails]). But again, nothing in their non-argument establishes any need to change the current process for electing city officials.

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How important to Mayor Tait is re-signing the Anaheim Angels for 20+ years? For members of the Anaheim City Council and the Angels, negotiations to achieve a new lease agreement have not been a surprise. Let’s review Tait’s substantive comments about the lease in his State of the City addresses since 2011.

January 2011: Zilch.

ttJanuary 2012: The Angels signed two new players–Albert Pujols and pitcher C. J. Wilson. I know I’m not the only one in the room who is excited for spring training.

February 2013: I’d like to join Angels Baseball in welcoming Josh Hamilton to Anaheim. . . . He joins a stellar line up, including the American League Rookie of the Year, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols.

January 2014: Even though we didn’t make the playoffs, the team drew more than 3 million fans and provided plenty of excitement. One highlight . . . was Mike Trout hitting for the cycle.

No doubt about it: Mayor Tait’s highest priority has been effecting a new lease agreement between the city and the Angels—and the reason he pitches this topic during each annual State of the City speech.

—Hugh Glenn

 

The loss of individual privacy worldwide is a residue of technology. Almost nothing can be kept secret anymore—even information never intended for others to see or read. Because we leave digital footprints each time we use a computer or talk on a cell phone, our writings and speech are monitored, collected, and analyzed by the ubiquitous National Security Agency. Moreover, the data and information collected can be stored forever.

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Many Anaheim residents and visitors will soon contribute involuntarily to the city’s data archives: video recordings, collected by cameras worn by Anaheim police officers, their purchase and use recently approved by the Anaheim City Council. In previous postings, I questioned the need for cops with Kodaks and the validity of the Council’s rationale for its vote. The cameras purchased are expensive ($1,150,000), and no substantive evidence has yet been presented to support the effectiveness of this technology for the Council’s stated purposes: “Little is known about citizen attitudes toward body-worn cameras, most notably whether the technology increases trust, legitimacy, and transparency of the police” (White, 2014, p. 35). The cost and misunderstandings about the effectiveness of video recordings notwithstanding, privacy is the public’s biggest concern about their use.

Read the rest of this entry »

Several hundred thousand dollars have been contributed by outside organizations to ensure Anaheim voters approve Measure L, a vote to change the process for electing members to the Anaheim City Council. Does Anaheim need to elect members by district instead of at-large? (I also ask the same question regarding Measure M: Does the city council need six members instead of four?) What is the demonstrated need to switch to a different basis for electing council members? Has want been mislabeled as need?

A good reason for passing Measure L would have been that the current system for electing council members does not result in the equal distribution of city resources and services. Mayor Tait and Council Member Brandman (2014) falsely imply a disparity, writing that passing Measure L “ensures neighborhoods get their fair share of city services.” In fact, the distribution of city dollars spent per capita in Anaheim has been remarkably similar. For example, the distribution for 2012 and 2013 is almost the same (City of Anaheim Finance Department, 2013, p. 12):

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Tait and Brandman offered no substantive reason or argument in their ballot verbiage for passing Measure L. Behold the purported reasons and implications—and note the absence of a shred of evidence for their support.

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As jubilant Angel players prepare for the playoffs and a hoped for appearance in the 2014 World Series, team owner, Arte Moreno, nixed further negotiations with the Anaheim City Council that would keep the team in Anaheim. Particularly now, fans do not welcome considering the possibility of losing the team to Tustin or any other city.

The yearlong impasse between the Council and Moreno has been detrimental to both parties. Moreno doesn’t need three more years to decide whether to stay or move his mega-moneymaker and the city’s mega tax generator. Regrettably, both sides neglect consideration of inveterate fans and their passionate investment in the Angels. Conspicuously absent is love of the game, so poignantly evidenced this week in every ballpark within which Derek Jeter appeared.

Moreno recently expressed a feigned caring for Angel fans to a Los Angeles Times’ reporter: “I’m very emotionally tied to the fans and the players.” In fact, Moreno cares much more about how much money the team will balloon his wallet: “I learned a long time ago there is no sentiment in it. . . . At the end of the day, it is business.” The Council, particularly Mayor Tait, shares Moreno’s penchant for money, wanting a bigger cut for the city of the revenue generated by the Angels and the future development of land juxtaposed to Angel Stadium.

Are Council members ready, particularly Tait, to permit Moreno to walk off, a losing decision for Anaheim? Local taxpayers would foot the bill to raze an outdated stadium—and a city treasury would never see millions of dollars in new tax revenue. The question to answer is whether the Anaheim City Council will give Moreno the contract he wants so he stays or continues the stalemate too long—and Moreno takes his ball and glove to get richer somewhere else. What would happen if Tait and others were to remain steadfast for a bigger piece of the Angel financial pie than Moreno is willing to serve?

A study by CSL (2012) quantified the financial benefits to Anaheim resulting directly from Angels baseball. The failure to extend the team’s contract through 2036 assures the loss to the city of $3,000,000 in net new cumulative spending. And approximately 2,500 full-time jobs would end along with $4,700,000 annually in cumulative taxes and other direct revenues. Moreover, 88% of persons who buy Angel tickets do not live in Anaheim (CSL, 2012, p. 4).

There is enough pie to divide between Moreno and Anaheim so that he and the city feel financially sated. If time runs out, Anaheim is the big and permanent loser.

Source:

Conventions, Sports & Leisure International (CSL). (2012). Economic Impact          Study of Angels Baseball. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/pe8nfqb

 —Hugh Glenn

Robert A. Naslund was a brilliant scholar and professor I respected highly during my years as a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California. An expert in curriculum and assessment, he expressed concern that persons with a vested interest in the outcome of teaching should never Naslundassess or evaluate instruction: “Teachers should never administer school achievement tests because they have a vested interest in the instructional outcome.” Since then, school testing has become known as high-stakes testing, teachers often dismissed because students record substandard scores on standardized and state tests, and fraudulent student test scores have too-often been discovered, major cheating scandals occurring in public schools in Atlanta, GA; El Paso, TX; and Washington, DC.

It is the violation of Naslund’s assessment principle that troubles me about the $1,100,000+ that the Anaheim City Council agreed to pay TASER for body-worn video cameras for Anaheim police officers. What result is expected if Abbott Laboratories, manufacturer of Vicodin, our nation’s most popular medication, were to conduct the research to establish its efficacy? Yet it is TASER (the same company that developed the electroshock gun during the 1960s) that has a vested financial interest by assessing the effectiveness of its body-worn video cameras. TASER sales are brisk and very lucrative these days: According to the Washington Post, sales during the past quarter exceeded $11,000,000—four times the sales TASER recorded during 2013. Anaheim subsequently contributed its $1+ million, and New York City is currently considering a proposal to equip its officers with cameras and increase TASER sales $32,000,000.

Whether cops should wear Kodaks is not the focus of this message. It is the untenable practice by city councils to spend millions of dollars to purchase a technology for which no substantive evidence exists for its effectiveness or for the stated purposes for which councils have purportedly bought it. Valid studies of body-worn video cameras have noted TASER’s role as the principal or collaborating researcher—and the absence of evaluation by independent investigators in the results.

In a study for the U.S. Air Force regarding making more informed decisions when buying new technologies, researchers concluded: “Various risks of committing to unvalidated technologies are much greater than any overall gain claimed for system performance.” Conducting a well-conceived pilot study of body-worn video cameras by police officers in Anaheim would have been a much smarter and far less costly option instead of immediately purchasing an untested, unvalidated technology. In this case, the Anaheim City Council trusted the fox.

Principal U.S. Studies of Police-Worn Video Cameras:

  1. La Vigne, N., Lowry, S., Markman, J., & Dwyer, A. (2013). Evaluating the use of public surveillance cameras for crime control and prevention. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/3p2jfv8
  2. Miller, L., Toliver,, & Police Executive Research Forum (2014). Implementing a body-worn camera program: recommendations and lessons learned. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/lxdg7ej
  3. Police Foundation. (2013). Self-awareness to being watched and socially-desirable behavior: A field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras on police use-of-force. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/mb3of5a
  4. White, M. (2014). Police officer body-worn cameras: Assessing the evidence. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Retrieved from http://tinyurl.com/q87pdtu

In my blog of September 21, I explained why the upcoming use of video cameras by Anaheim police officers will not provide transparency. State laws and court decisions will prevent public disclosure of the video evidence police collect. I also noted several reasons for spending $1,100,000 cited by members of the city council to purchase these cameras: accountability, trust, alleviating uncertainty, and decreasing complaints. Contrary to Mayor Tait’s mantra, “little is known about citizen attitudes toward body-worn cameras, most notably whether the technology increases trust, legitimacy, and transparency of the police” (1).

As a writer, editor, and researcher, I am struck by the absence of evidence to support the purchase of body-worn video cameras—about which so little research has been completed. “Scant research exists documenting the decisions made to invest in public surveillance technology” (2). And the evidence for using body-worn video cameras is scanter. Read the rest of this entry »

During the meeting of the Anaheim City Council last week, Mayor Tait commented on its approval to spend $1,100,000 for cameras to videotape police activities, a technology whose effectiveness has not yet been firmly established. Tait referred to “developing transparency, accountability, and trust throughout the community.” I was reminded of words spoken by another governmental official.

“[I am] committed COPto creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government . . . to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” To date, these predictions by President Obama as he began his first term remain spurious.

Reaction to the unanimous vote of council members was immediate: “Fabulous. We’re going to be even more effective. . . Anaheim at its best, at the forefront of new technology . . . One more step in alleviating uncertainty, and developing transparency, accountability, and trust throughout the community.” The hope for more transparency and the commitment to it, however, will soon disappoint. Cops with Kodaks cannot nullify California state laws and court decisions limiting—and sometimes prohibiting—public disclosure of a wide scope of information.

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