“We ask the police to do too much.” President Obama Agrees With “Crime in America”
“But it’s cowardly to tell cops to enforce the law without acknowledging the physical and psychological dangers (on both sides) in communities that feel they are being over-policed.” CrimeinAmerica.Net
“We’ve literally ignored the murder and injury to tens of thousands of our fellow citizens in high crime neighborhoods, and cops are quitting in large numbers. It’s time for something different.”CrimeinAmerica.Net
Since the murders of five police officers in Dallas and the emerging Black Lives Matter protest, Crime in America.Net offered a series of articles focusing on the need for written contracts between police and communities.
We did this noting newspaper previous articles suggesting that police officers are quitting in large numbers and their replacements are getting harder to find. Commenters (including the head of the FBI) feel that police officers are reluctant to aggressively patrol, which is leading to a surge in homicides and violent crime in many (not all) cities throughout the country.
The President’s Remarks (edited)
“We also know what Chief Brown has said is true, that so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much and we ask too little of ourselves.
As a society, we choose to under-invest in decent schools. We allow poverty to fester so that entire neighborhoods offer no prospect for gainful employment. We refuse to fund drug treatment and mental health programs.
And then we tell the police, “You’re a social worker; you’re the parent; you’re the teacher; you’re the drug counselor.” We tell them to keep those neighborhoods in check at all costs and do so without causing any political blowback or inconvenience; don’t make a mistake that might disturb our own peace of mind. And then we feign surprise when periodically the tensions boil over.”
Vice President’s Comments
Vice President Joe Biden said that law enforcement leaders who met in Washington on Monday agreed that “there’s a great deal of anxiety and fear” around policing, especially in the aftermath of last week’s deadly shootings.
A Black Lives Matter Activist Comments
A Black Lives Matter activist from Chicago argued during a heated Kelly File discussion that American police forces should be abolished.
“Here are the solutions. We need to abolish the police, period. Demilitarize the police, disarm the police, and we need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice,” said Jessica Disu, drawing some shocked reactions.”
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Policing Must go Through a Period of Significant Change
Unless we provide some relief to police officers patrolling high crime urban communities, cops will quit, transfer or do little in the way of proactive policing. If nothing changes, violent crime will continue to skyrocket. Confrontations between police and residents will escalate.
Whether it comes from the President or a Black Lives Matter representative, policing must go through a period of significant change.
As one commentator stated after the indictment of six police officers in Baltimore after riots pertaining to the Freddie Gray case, “Every wife and girlfriend, every husband and boyfriend is telling their loved one’s to get out of the Baltimore City Police Department, and to get out now.” Similar conversations are happening in other cities.
We note that Baltimore now has the largest growth in homicides of the cities measured by recent US Department of Justice funded data. Rising rates of homicides and violence are happening in cities throughout the country.”
As we received the news of the Dallas homicides, that act of husbands and wives asking, “Is being a cop really worth it?” is being repeated throughout the country.
We note that Dallas media (CBS local station) offered the following before the shootings, “The Dallas Police Association Says Low Pay, Morale Trigger Several Police Resignations. June was not a good month for staffing at the Dallas Police Department. The Dallas Police Association says nearly 50 officers resigned over the past month to take jobs in other North Texas cities.”
From recent coverage, “The number of police in mid-sized cities has decreased in recent years, and policing experts question whether the downward trend is tied to the heightened scrutiny of cops. The Baltimore, Maryland Police Department lost 171 officers from 2014 to 2015. In the same time period, Detroit’s officer-count dropped by 115.” REUTERS.
Communities Control Crime-Not Cops
Every student of criminology is taught that communities control crime, not cops, not the criminal justice system.
“Think about it,” my criminology professor would say, “Can you stop someone from using drugs or beating their spouse or buying stolen goods or engaging in an act of violence. No, of course not, thus the limitations of the criminal justice system.”
So is the cited Black Lives Matters activist correct? Do we need need to come up with community solutions for community justice?
A Written Contract with Communities
There need to be rules of engagements in every community in the Unites States as to what we want cops to do and how we want them to do it. It’s not time for a dialog, it’s not time for an understanding, it’s time for action.
Let every city and community spell out what it wants done on their behalf. Let it be in writing. Too many confrontations start out as police enforcing minor traffic or criminal violations. This needs to stop unless communities tell cops otherwise. Stop interacting with people regarding anything less than a felony. Let the community tell police when enforcement should change. Let the community create a list as to what it wants.
We understand that this flies in the face of proactive or broken windows policing and that many police commanders and mayors will profoundly disagree, but we are past the time where we get to say that we know better than community residents.
It may (and probably will) lead to an increase in crime, but that’s a choice for the community to make. In many cities, it couldn’t get much worse than what it is now.
We’ve literally ignored the murder and injury to tens of thousands of our fellow citizens in high crime neighborhoods, and cops are quitting in large numbers. It’s time for something different.
We in the justice system make discretionary choices every day. Most minor drug or alcohol violations are ignored. Two friends who assault each other are asked if either want to press charges; an arrest is not automatic. We take most kids home rather than process them through the system. There are endless other examples.
People will say that police officers can’t interpret the law, their only option is to enforce it. But that’s not true, it’s never been true, and it’s time to stop pretending that we don’t have that choice.
So let communities decide their levels of enforcement. There are an endless number of online tools to gain a consensus. Let there be community meetings.
Don’t like “stop and frisk?” Wa-lah, done. Disagree with marijuana arrests? Over. The guy who gets drunk and passes out? Sent to a place where he can peacefully sleep it off. Minor DWI? Take his keys and call a cab. Minor domestic violence? Send them to counseling if both agree. Theft from stores? Let them hire people with arrest authority. Traffic violations? Short of 15 miles over the speed limit or reckless driving, ignore it.
Cops Would Love This
Cops would love this. When the complaint for noisy kids comes in, they don’t arrest, they get out of their patrol car and talk. No one runs, no one mouths off, why run the risk when the likelihood is that you’re not going to be arrested?
Police officers could spend the majority of their time (now that they have time) talking to residents and being good guys, and getting leads as to major crimes (the essence of community policing). Fewer arrests mean fewer people with criminal records, fewer people going to jail or prison, less cost for taxpayers.
And most importantly for cops, they end the majority of confrontations, and they come home safe; their psychological scars are fewer. They are happier. Maybe now they won’t quit in droves, which is what’s happening now (and no one wants to take their place). Maybe they will go back to proactive policing now they have defined rules of engagement.
There will be detractors who will say that if you “…take care of the small stuff the big stuff will take care of itself” (broken windows). I’m not sure that business will appreciate drinking or drug use close to their buildings. Advocacy organizations will strongly disagree as to drinking and driving and domestic violence. But they are not the ones enforcing all this. Ignore them.
Not all communities will proceed down this path, and that’s fine. The overwhelming number of communities in this country will want things to stay as they are.
Why aren’t communities taking responsibility for their own safety?
But it’s cowardly to tell cops to enforce the law without acknowledging the physical and psychological dangers (on both sides) in communities that feel they are being over-policed. You are not an occupying force if your only role is to deal with the big stuff, the crimes everyone wants addressed.
Police officers need some level of support if they are to do their jobs with precision and compassion. They need encouragement if we expect them to continue to do their jobs.
But why is police-community cooperation the role of government? Why aren’t communities taking responsibility for their own safety?
Let communities police themselves. They will let us know when they want that to change.