Saturday, July 24, 2021

DC Is a Microcosm of Everything That's Wrong with the Democrats' Approach on Crime

The most recent events on the streets of DC have been atrocious. Washington Post columnist Colbert King has seen enough:
"A few hours after the international broadcast of gunplay outside Nationals Park on July 17, and one day after the horrible shooting death of 6-year-old Nyiah Courtney in Southeast Washington, Northwest D.C.'s Ward 4 experienced a 77-minute crime burst.
"The reports came in:
July 18, 12:12 a.m.: shooting 300 block of Delafield Place NW.
12:55 a.m.: robbery 5200 block of 2nd Street NW.
1:29 a.m.: homicide 6700 block 5th Street NW.
The following day, crime took an even more audacious turn. A robbery was committed in broad daylight at 9th and Quackenbos streets NW, a few yards from Fourth District police headquarters. A gray Toyota drove up, a man jumped out, and with 4D HQ in plain sight, robbed the victim and drove away.
Then, on Thursday evening, bullets flew at near the intersection of 14th and Riggs streets NW, scattering pedestrians and restaurant patrons....
[A] veteran law enforcement official said, “a significant number of people being arrested for these crimes have been previously arrested for committing the same crimes, year after year.”
Police Chief Robert J. Contee III alluded to that problem after the shooting outside Nationals Park. “We can reform the police, that’s great, community people can call tips in, that’s great, but if we’re letting these people out the back door and not being held accountable for their actions, that’s another issue we have to dig deep into,” he said.
Indeed, some of the same offenders, including young ones, keep turning up. Cops have a hard time keeping up. “Stretched thin” is the way one top cop put it — citing staffing shortages, rock-bottom morale and resignations.
The D.C. Council and mayor, no political slouches if nothing else, know something needs to be done. Their response has been to pour more than $200 million into gun-violence prevention programs — perhaps useful, but clearly of unproven worth....
But where are city leaders on the reality that offenders must be held accountable?
By any yardstick, the chief preoccupation of lawmakers and public safety advocates is police reform. That tops all else. The crime crisis comes in a distant second.
At a May forum on urgent criminal justice issues in the city, D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson asked stakeholders a simple but admittedly hard question to answer: “What is the one thing you would do in policy or practice to [quickly] improve public safety in the District?”
A couple of samples:
Robert Bobb, co-chair of the D.C. Police Reform Commission and former city administrator, answered: “Create an environment within [[the D.C. police]] where there is complete transparency of how the police operate, which would be shared without any editing with the community.”...
Christy E. Lopez, co-chair of the D.C. Police Reform Commission and former Justice Department Civil Rights Division official (and a Post contributing columnist): “I would want to . . . look at implementing either a generalized first-responder . . . model . . . or a mental health crisis response. . . . It would reduce a lot of human harm and pain that happens when we get the wrong response . . . a police response when another type of response is warranted.”
Mind, these responses are to a question on improving *public safety* in the middle of a crime spike. Talk about being out of touch.
King concludes:
"More was said about injecting cultural competency and anti-bias education into police training. About demilitarizing the police as an “occupying force” in the community; reimagining police as “guardians,” not “warriors”; expunging “anti-Blackness” out of police practices; and changing interactions between Black youth and the police.
As for holding criminals accountable, stopping criminal behavior, not condoning or finding ways to excuse it when it’s repeatedly committed — well, not so much.
And who knows that better than the dudes with the guns."
King's cri de coeur is bracing and instructive. For more detailed analysis of how the Democratic response to crime is going astray I recommend this piece by criminologist Peter Moskos in the Wall Street Journal. Moskos analyzes the murder spike in 2020 and argues that it cannot be understood outside of the context of police pullback in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the associated protests and political climate. As the article's subtitle notes, "last year’s unprecedented rise in killings was the result of treating policing as a problem to be solved, rather than an essential part of public order." Losing the thread of police and policing as essential to public order has had big consequences.
"Years of declining crime rates through 2014 had allowed political leaders to shift their focus away from crime prevention. The number of arrests nationwide peaked in 1997, and the number of people incarcerated has been in a slow decline since 2007. What changed in 2020 is that policing itself came under unprecedented pressure, brought on by the murder of Mr. Floyd.
Mr. Floyd’s death and other incidents in recent years have put a spotlight on racial tensions over the use of force by police and have spurred a political response, including the election in many cities of officials determined to change police behavior. In Boston, District Attorney Rachael Rollins pledged to stop prosecuting disorderly conduct, driving with a suspended license and trespassing. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot all but banned police from pursuing suspects on foot.
Such external pressure, combined with a pullback on the part of police departments wary of intensified scrutiny, has resulted in less proactive policing in many cities. In Los Angeles, for instance, arrests declined 40% between 2013 and 2019, mostly as a result of Proposition 47, which reclassified many felonies as misdemeanors. In 2020 arrests dropped another 37%, and this year they are down another 6% so far, even as shootings and murders in Los Angeles continue to rise.
In recent focus groups I’ve observed, officers say they still handle calls for service and go after criminals they see committing crimes, but they readily admit they are much less likely to enforce a minor violation or stop a person based on reasonable suspicion. They fear that increased resistance from emboldened suspects might require the use of force, leading to public criticism and even the prosecution of police officers.
In 2020, trying to contain a wave of civil unrest complicated matters for police departments. During such special operations, when resources are stretched thin, officers are told to limit interactions and arrests, to avoid being taken out of service for prisoner transport and hours of paperwork....
New York police officials reported that in 2020 about 40% of those arrested for gun possession were released on their own recognizance, pending indefinitely postponed prosecution. Meanwhile, in the face of rising protests, proactive quality-of-life stops, tickets and arrests plunged by 90% or more, even as routine requests for police intervention rose by almost 50%.
The power of deterrence is often overrated, but the effective withdrawal of so much of the criminal justice system in New York City was bound to have an effect.
Maintaining police morale and numbers has also become a problem. Many city departments have become understaffed as the current atmosphere leads to fewer applicants to join the force and more retirements. Jurisdictions seen as less critical of police officers, such as Bellevue, Wash., and Anne Arundel County, Md., actively recruit officers from nearby Seattle and Washington, D.C., in what are known among the departments as “lateral transfers.”
A number of the cities with the biggest increases in murders in 2020 were associated with particularly controversial policing incidents. Murders increased by 69% in Minneapolis, for example, where Mr. Floyd was killed, and by 99% in Louisville, where Breonna Taylor was shot in a botched police operation. In Seattle, where protests after Mr. Floyd’s death sometimes turned violent and resulted in the creation of an anti-police “autonomous zone,” the murder rate increased 41%.
There are precedents in other cities for police pullbacks in the face of controversy and subsequent spikes in violent crime. In Baltimore in 2015, six officers were charged for the death of Freddy Gray in police custody. After riots led to personnel shortages and a more combative public, proactive policing essentially ended. The 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, which was followed by a police and political coverup, led to a new requirement for police officers to complete lengthy forms, subject to official review by the ACLU, for every stop they made. In this environment, police largely declined to stop suspicious people, and violent crime increased.
Civil unrest and calls for police accountability don’t directly cause an increase in murders and other violence. The danger is when antipolice sentiment rises to the point where policing is seen as the primary problem to be solved rather than as an essential part of maintaining public order and safety. Onerous restrictions on the police can lead to the worst of both worlds: poorer policing and more violence.
The first step on the path forward is heightened accountability—not just for police misconduct, though that is essential, but for crime prevention. Mayors, city councils and police chiefs must accept responsibility for dramatic increases in street violence under their leadership, and they must be ready to defend the legal and necessary use of force by police. Urban electorates are looking for such leaders, as the victory of NYPD veteran Eric Adams in the recent New York City primary for mayor suggests."
There you have it. Rising crime has to be stopped and it is silly to think that you can police reform your way to public safety. Politicians who insist on believing that will be duly punished by voters.
Read Moskos' whole article if you possibly can. I also recommend his book Cop in the Hood and his blog Quality Policing.

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