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by Peter Moskos

May 3, 2017

"You Get the Police You Ask For"

Since I've been remiss at writing anything here recently, I'm going to link to a piece from Jim Glennon at Calibre Press:
[Baltimore] Mayor Pugh then thanked federal officials for their assistance in the arrest of a man who murdered a three-year-old in 2014.
The Mayor’s expectation that the FBI can assist in the day-to-day in Baltimore not only won’t happen, it can’t. The Feds, and I am not one to bash them, are great at what they do. But what they don’t do is don uniforms and walk a beat.

The Baltimore cops may be undermanned but that isn’t the reason for the surge in crime. They have been understaffed before. What’s different in the past two years? An absence of proactive policing. The surge in crime began immediately after the cops pulled back. Though no division of the elite political class, few criminologists, no mainstream media outlets, and no legal activist groups like the ACLU will openly acknowledge this.

Why? Because they are the ones who wanted proactive policing stopped in the first place.
The anti-police pundits blather on about how the violence isn’t as bad as in the early 1990s. They’ll yammer about how the crime surge is only in about 75 of the country’s counties. They’ll wax poetically about economic issues, past history, immigration, lack of trust between the police and the community, and then they will go back to their security-controlled TV studios and gated communities, sip chardonnay and chitchat about law enforcement ills with like-minded peers.

Meanwhile, real people are dying, and the FBI, the CIA, the DOJ, and the VIPs won’t be able to stop the carnage.
So politicians, pundits, etc., you got what you asked for. The question is: Did the citizens ask for it?


Unknown said...
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Moskos said...

While I always appreciate biting sarcasm, that isn't really the tone or level of intellectual discourse I've become accustom to here. Nor did you actually address the main point of the article. So... you're welcome.

Charles G. said...

I can't help wonder what citizens want. What do I want? And how do I even know? I get my information about policing (as a private citizen) from a few books and 90% from news stories. I cannot have much of an idea about what is effective. I stay within the law and have not had an encounter with an LEO since my last speeding ticket in 1999. I live in a middle class neighborhood with most crime (drugs and domestics) out of my view. Yet I'm well educated, a professional, and a participant in our democracy.

But what about citizens in the more criminal sections of Baltimore and elsewhere? Can they say the same? Can they make informed recommendations to city councils or law enforcement about how they want to be patrolled? The only thing I can think to say is, "We always need more cops. Why is that always such a problem?"

Moskos said...

You know what? Blacks what more police more than whites wants more police. (So says a 2015 post-Ferguson Gallup poll.) Now more and better police are not mutual exclusive, of course. It's complicated. But no, the biggest problem facing blacks right now is not police, despite what some sheltered folks want to believe.

If Baltimore citizens want less police, or less aggressive police, or police who don't clear corners. That's their business. But so many changes in policing -- changes that directly lead to more violence -- are coming from an ideology that the only real problem facing Americans is bad policing. And how dare outsiders paternalistically speak for blacks in high-crime neighborhoods. Like people can't speak for themselves?

I do not mean to discount the significance of each and every bad police incident. Not at all. But it *is* a big country. There will always be bad policing just as there is bad everything else. (For a while I thought it was great everybody had shifted to those evil airlines beating people up.) Incident-based outrage confirmation-biased anecdotes are not a good way to reform policing.

There are probably about two really horrible police-involved killings each year. That's a dozen or two too many. But good God, we're taking in the range of 20. Twenty. 33 Americans are killed by lighting every year. There are 50,000 drug overdose deaths.

But there *will* be another horrible police shooting in the next two weeks. It's almost guaranteed. What's the lesson? It needs to be more than the imposition of a "less police is better" model.

Charles G. said...

That leads back to the problem I see as a prof, even among the "innocent": entitlement, bad liberalism (good hearted but misinformed), and the way we receive our news/truth: TV entertainment journalism mostly, covering politicians trying to appease masses so they can get re-elected. Interesting about the post-Ferguson Gallup poll.

I think Americans (maybe everyone?) look for the closest authorities to them to blame for social ills, all the resentment, institutional racism, white guilt, and on and on. The closest authorities seem to be police. Who else can they blame, elementary school principals? What I don't understand is why professional journalism--not just social media--seems to run with it.

Are our various crises of crime actually crises of journalism?

Moskos said...

I think journalism has taken a while to catch up. But... and I may have confirmation here on the journalists I read most and speak to, but I think journalists have gotten much better covering police issues in the past year or two. I think in 2014 and early 2015, when everybody was like, "OMG, cops are killing black men!" And then when some data did finally become available (and when people see the cops kill white people to) nuance takes over. That and journalists do actually deal with crime victims. And it's hard to stay focused on "big bad police" when people on your beat are literally getting murdered every day and police mostly good people trying to stop the violence.

Related to the last point, I think you see something among people that have first-hand experience with violence -- and this covers a kind of small but very wide range of society, those who deal with the blood and hear the wailing of relatives -- if you deal with the dead, you can (and arguably should be) extremely dismissive of those who have have strong opinions but no direct relation to the dead and dying. There's such despair right now among those who care that people are dying and nobody gives a shit. Not dozens killed by cops. But thousands in every other way. That's rough on those who are actually trying to do something to save lives.

Mike Maltz said...

FYI http://www.samefacts.com/2017/02/crime-incarceration/police-stops/


IrishPirate said...

I think your comment on blacks wanting more police lacks specifics.

Let me elaborate, first grabs beer, ok now I'm ready.

Three groups of blacks largely don't want more police.

1. Criminal subset. Self explanatory.

2. Youngish black activists. They're coming at crime from a "racist" or "structural" perspective and see cops and law enforcement in general as the "boot" of the state. Also it's fun to be on the teevee and protest. Helps ya get laid.

3. Black cultural and political leaders. Now there are exceptions to this, but they come at it from a similar perspective to the second group except with a putative overlay of wisdom because of their age and academic credentials. Some of it comes from an understandable anger/annoyance at being more often stopped by cops because of their skin color. Another part of it is sincere. Also it plays well in the social circles they run around in.

Now what black people would like more cops? Oh I dunno maybe the working class, middle class and elderly folks who live in crime infested hoods and want to be able to walk to the store without hearing gunfire and/or want to be able to send their kids to the park without worrying they were going to get shot.

I need another beer.

IrishPirate said...

Make that two beers. I need to acknowledge/honor all the flavors of opinion regarding beer. All opinions are equally valid........unless they're from people I don't like. Then they need to STFU.

Kyle said...

Facebook can be the new 911/999, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/11/pub-landlord-resorts-facebook-help-police-say-burglary-not-emergency/

Time to own some FB shares?

Suzie said...

I agree with Irish Pirate. Reporters will have phone numbers for group #3 and can interview people over the phone, saving time. During a protest, it's easy to quote #1 and #2, which may be indistinguishable to reporters.

For a while as a newspaper reporter, I covered public housing. To get another perspective, I'd walk the streets the next day to interview people who stayed inside. But newspaper staffs continue to shrink, and reporters have less time. We can't rely on TV news for nuance.

Richie Rich said...

Pro-active policing means more intrusive measures, which rub up against the civil rights we have. It is a difficult issue. Aggressive policing will cut down on crime and make neighborhoods safer but the inevitable innocent people caught up in stop and frisks and constant ID checks will finally get fed up enough to complain. Let's face it, legally the police cannot use the " officer safety " excuse for weapons pat downs as they must have reasonable and articulable suspicion someone is armed AND dangerous before subjecting citizens to the indignities of seizure and physical handling. Searches of pockets are common even though probable cause is needed for that, so cops are automatically on the wrong side of the rules when they use these methods. But the other side says " Well, we are willing to let the innocent suffer the indignities and inconvenience in order to advance the common interest in safety". Cops are really forced to cross the line when the brass leans on them to clean up an area, and the results are predictable; either the cops look like occupying troops or ineffective enforcers...tough place to be.