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: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.)
"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.
June 23, 2015
Police/Community relations in Baltimore
They weren't good then. They're not good now. From Cop in the Hood: