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by Peter Moskos

June 23, 2015

Police/Community relations in Baltimore

They weren't good then. They're not good now. From Cop in the Hood:
While the police see good communication between the public and the police as essential to fighting crime, relations are quite poor. This shouldn’t be surprising. Drug users are criminal. If they want to stay out of jail, they and those who care for them have every reason to be wary of police. One officer complained:

"Nobody here will talk to police. Half the public hates us. The other half is scared to talk to us. I would be, too. But we can’t do anything without the public. They know who’s dirty and who’s not. They know who’s shooting who. We don’t know. They live here. We just drive around in big billboards. How are we supposed to see anything? The public doesn’t understand that nothing will ever go to court if nobody talks. We can only do so much. As long as nobody ever sees anything, things aren’t going to change."
New or not, the impact of silence is hugely detrimental to police and prosecutors. Even without personal risks, there is little incentive to testify. Nobody gains through interaction with the criminal justice system. You don’t get paid for it; there is no guarantee that testimony will result in conviction and jail time; and after the second or third postponement, a sense of civic duty usually fades. The hassles of court--passing through metal detectors, wasted days, close contact with crowds of criminals--combined with practical matters such as work and childcare make it far easier, even smarter, to see nothing, hear nothing, and mind your own business.
That's the real wall of silence we need to break down. And I have no idea how to do it. Especially given the rules of the game, both judicial and criminal. Make no mistake about it: snitches do get stitches. Witnesses get killed. Not that often, mind you. But just enough to shut people up. (This also seems relevant if you've read Ghettoside, which I wrote about in a comment to this post.)


Anonymous said...

If Batts can bring his command meeting to the neighborhood, why not set up a tent and bring Court with a no postponement default.

Anonymous said...

I will say I think you're wrong about Leovy's book, Peter. Leovy knows Skaggs isn't typical and the Tenelle's murder isn't typical. I also just read David Simon's Homicide for comparison.

At the end of the day, some cases can't be cracked. But many can be - it's just a question of finding the witnesses and getting them to make statements. In the ghetto, that means you can't make calls. You have to go there, to the guy's home, again and again. It's a time intensive and resource intensive process.

At the same time, many departments have gutted homicide units in favor of "anticrime" units or "proactive" patrol strategies. Look at Milwaukee PD - they've gutted their detective unit, and murders are up 180%. Leovy noticed the obvious understaffing and underfunding in LA too: no formal training program for murder police, a lack of bright officers in the detective ranks, huge caseloads (why the hell does Watts have the same number of detectives as a district with half the crime?), cops transferring to "better" units for career purposes, a lack of cooperation from patrol, huge forensic backlogs, and finally a massive lack of everything from tape recorders to cars to notebooks.

And I do think it matters if killers are locked up. In Black America, if you kill a man, 60% of the time you get away with it. What does the sociological research say about killings? I would guess a man who's already done a shooting will be much more likely to do another one.

Right now, most major departments see Patrol as the way to prevent crime and detectives as the way to respond when the prevention fails. I would like to see a department try Leovy's approach and do the opposite by pouring money and men into solving violent felonies/gun crimes and making good cases. Make patrol an arm of investigations rather than vice versa. And just see what happens. As near as I can tell, it's never been tried.

Len Neal said...

A HUGE problem for 'snitches' is completely retarded cops giving them away for no earthly reason. I dropped a dime on a child-abuse-neglect issue (honestly, the ONLY issue I told cops about) in this manner: carefully putting out feelers to a cop I knew well, and having him put me in touch with another officer who had an assignment dealing with kids, and then did a VERY quiet sit-down with her describing the situation and extracted a promise to handle it like a 'I saw him drop a baggie' kind of way. I had to work in the neighborhood: it was my ass! Calling a cop was close to a death sentence.
This STUPID WHITE BITCH drives out the very next day, bangs on the door, and informs this pack that 'the guy who was here yesterday' saw some kids being neglected.
I NEVER called the police again about anything, EVER! Never! NEVER!
Who trains these people? Where do they come from, to treat my life with such disrespect?
One encounter. ONE. That was it. Try to get me killed.

Ryanaldo said...

Baltimore needs Spanish Influenza. maybe smallpox.

Dave- IL said...


So is that a wish for biological warfare or action from some vengeful god (like the socially retarded holy rollers that blame natural disasters on gays or liberals or something like that). Charming comment, whatever it means.