Community Leader-Bring Back The Cops!

Police Officers

Observations

Will cops return to proactive policing? Is community support really there? Can trust be rebuilt?

Why aren’t communities taking responsibility for their own safety?

Stop asking cops to do the impossible.

Author 

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.

Article

Below is commentary from a minister in Baltimore via National Public Radio asking for more police involvement in his community. He is requesting a return to proactive policing.

The question is whether cops are willing to return to aggressive policing. Everyone is angry. The lack of trust is massive.

Cops were surrounded by taunting community members holding smartphones recording anything police officers did. Officers responded by refusing most proactive involvement. They did routine patrols and responded to calls, that’s it. Now, cities throughout America are hurting.

The Baltimore Effect

Violent crime is skyrocketing in Baltimore and it’s hurting communities, tourism, business, and the entire city. It will take decades to recover from the massive protests, violence, and destruction after the death of Freddie Gray and accusations that police misconduct contributed to his demise.

Note that Maryland courts and the police administration completely exonerated the six police officers charged with murder and related crimes.

Some suggest that the indictment of the six police officers greatly impacted local and American policing and led to massive increases in homicides and violent crimes in most American cities, Crime in America-Baltimore.

Many American police officers believe that the cops in the Freddie Gray incident did nothing wrong; they suggest that if cops were charged with murder for doing what they do every day, they could be charged as well.

Officers refuse to engage in proactive policing which contributed to rising violence throughout the country, Crime in America-Arrests. Proactive policing has the backing of Department of Justice research indicating that it works, Crime in America-Proactive Policing.

So the question is, will cops return to proactive policing? Is community support really there? Can trust be rebuilt?

From National Public Radio (edited for brevity)

For the third year in a row, Baltimore, Md., has had more than 300 murders, reaching a new record of murders per number of residents in 2017.

Some residents attribute the high murder rate to relaxed police patrols in the city following high-profile cases of police brutality. Officers have backed off in neighborhoods, like the one where Freddie Gray was arrested.

The Rev. Kinji Scott, a pastor in Baltimore who’s held positions in local city government, says the opposite needs to happen.

“We wanted the police there,” Scott says. “We wanted them engaged in the community. We didn’t want them beating the hell out of us, we didn’t want that.”

He’s among activists who are calling for police reform to reduce the violence in Baltimore and several other high-crime cities across the U.S. that he says haven’t seen change.

“We need the front line police officers and we need the heart of the black community to step to the forefront of this discussion,” he says. “And that’s when we’re going to see a decrease in crime.”

On whether the community wanted police to back off after the death of Freddie Gray

No. That represented our progressives, our activists, our liberal journalists, our politicians, but it did not represent the overall community.

On whether the high murder rate is unique to Baltimore

It’s not. I lost my brother in St. Louis in 2004; just lost my cousin in Chicago. No it’s not unique, and that’s the horrible thing.

Washington Post Article on Baltimore

Since the Freddie Gray situation, even if you call the police and give a description, they can’t touch the criminals,” the business owner said. “They know they’re untouchable. That’s the key.”

“This is a killing field.”

“Don’t give up on Baltimore,” Mayor Catherine E. Pugh told officers gathered for a roll call in the Southern District police station last week

Washington Post

So What Needs To Happen?

Stop asking cops to do the impossible. There need to be rules of engagements in every high crime community as to what we want cops to do and how we want them to do it.

Let every distressed community spell out what it wants done on their behalf. Let it be in writing. The vast majority of American communities do not want change.

Too many confrontations start out as police enforcing minor traffic or criminal violations. This needs to stop unless communities tell cops otherwise. Let the community tell police when enforcement should change.

I understand that this flys 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 (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.

So let high crime communities decide their levels of enforcement. There is an endless number of online tools to gain a consensus.

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. Traffic violations? Short of 15 miles over the speed limit or reckless driving, ignore them.

Cowardly

But it’s cowardly to tell cops to enforce all laws without acknowledging the physical and psychological dangers (on both sides) in communities that feel over-policed.

You are not an occupying force if your only role is to deal with the big stuff, the crimes everyone wants to be addressed.

Police officers need community 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. They need to believe that the community has their back as they take on additional risks on their behalf.

But why is police-community cooperation the role of government? Why aren’t communities taking responsibility for their own safety?

Let communities decide. They will let us know when they want that to change.

As for Rev. Scott, dialog and change needs to happen now. Governments exist by the consent of the governed.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com.

Media on deadline, contact leonardsipes@gmail.com


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Comments

  1. Alan Davis says:

    Communities do not take the primary responsibility for their safety for many reasons. Firstly, that is why communities pay for police agencies that are specially trained and experienced to do just that. The challenge is not community laxity or concern. Communities all over America are screaming for just that opportunity. Police for the most part want and need community support and trust to do their job. Making that happen necessitates lowering the guarded stance of distrust from both sides. Police generally believe they are the physicians who are tasked with providing safety and security to the community without what is considered (if not stated) unskilled and unlearned interference from the patient community. They will meet and talk to the community about its concerns but for the most part use its discreation as to priorities, strategies to achieve them and what acceptable outcomes look like. When police approach communities as true partners with mutual concerns and authority to guide policy and determine acceptable outcomes and strategies, trust and confidence will begin to improve along with sensitivity to officer challenges. You are right police should do what the community wants, but getting to that understanding presupposes a willingness to submit to community will. So far law enforcement wants it their way…or no way.

    • Hi Alan: Nice response. But cops have been backing off arrests, or not arresting for marijuana or not engaging in high-speed chases thus they are listening to the community “or” they are so dispirited by community reaction in some communities that they are not engaging in any form of proactive policing. Thus, cops are listening and reacting but I’m not sure that their reactions are in everyone’s best interest (i.e., increasing crime).

      I ride my four-wheel drive vehicle in my mountain town and wave to the cops (they wave back) but it’s illegal for me to do this. It’s simply tolerated because it’s something the community wants. Cops make this distinction in communities throughout the country (why we have elected sheriffs).

      There is a long history of cops bending to the will of the community. It’s shouldn’t be any different for high-crime communities. Cops simply can’t be all things to all people. It’s time for dialog but it’s also time for communities to reassert control over their own environments. It’s a win-win proposition for all if they choose to embrace it.

      Best, Len.

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