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by Peter Moskos

September 30, 2009

"Zero tolerance for what?"

Here's a great interview from Investigative Voice with Baltimore homicide detectives Irving Bradley and David Hollingsworth.
You had to be an actor. I had to convince you, what I was telling you to do was the right thing to do. Even though before I got you, you had torn out every window in the neighborhood, you had torn up somebody’s car, and threw a hatchet at somebody -- all of this prior to my arrival. I had to convince you that fighting me was wrong, and that it would be better for you to come with me and let me lock you up so I could solve your problem.

You see, we were on our own; the community is who you depended on. Those neighbors, they knew who the assholes were in the neighborhood. When they saw you confronting them, they would get on the phone and call the police and say, "Officer so-and-so is out there and I’m sure some shit is going to happen." And you would look around the corner and an officer would be coming for back-up, but that was initiated by the community. Because you protected them.

The worse thing they could have ever done is put everybody in a car and create this 911 system without proper instructions. Because what is an emergency to you is not necessarily an emergency to me. You call 911 and say, My cat is stuck up on the fire escape." And another guy calls 911 and says, "I have stabbing in progress and if someone doesn’t get here soon he’s going to die." Both are 911 calls.

But the officer in the car has got to go; he does not have the discretion to say, "Okay, that cat got up there, he can stay there.
You should know the players, you should know who is on your post. If you have a 64- year-old man on your post, I would know him. Like I said, it’s the basics that are lost.
"You really can’t arrest your way out of the problem," Bradley says.

When I was a cop, I met the mayor in 2001. One meeting. One-on-one. Nice guy, I thought. I remember telling him, "You know, Mr. Mayor, you can't arrest your way of the problem." He looked at me quizzically and said, "Why not?"

On Zero Tolerance, Hollingsworth says:
Where’s the crime? They have no idea what a tolerable crime is, and what an intolerable crime is. It depends on the neighborhood. Your dog, you're walking through Charles Village, and you have Foo Foo with you and Foo Foo craps on the ground, you put it in the bag and you keep walking. Well, on Mount Street, a guy is walking home with his bulldog and the dog craps in your yard... what are going to do, call a police officer and say, “He ain't pulled that poop up?’ It all depends.
Get out of the car. Walk in the neighborhood. They would see a world of difference if they could get out of that car. Get out of the car and you’ll learn real fast.
These are real police. And they were Broken Windows when Broken Windows wasn't cool.

Part I is here. Great stuff on community policing back in the old days. (But they're actually wrong--not morally, but legally--about the requirements for frisks. I could legally frisk almost everybody on my post. Reasonable suspicion and the Terry Frisk go a long way to get me touching your pockets).

(And I'm glad Lt Peel is still raising hell. I liked that goof when he was just a crazy sergeant with a dirty shirt. Oh and the things he read! I couldn't hang with him intellectually... and I was the Harvard Student! I got to send him my book. If you're reading this, LT, will you get in touch with me? I'd love to hear what you're reading this month.)

Part II is here.

[thanks to a Canadian reader]

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