I wish I knew more about what's going on there with policing. My knowledge, very limited, consists of the following:
A) There were issues.
B) The police department was basically disbanded; there was some police-union busting.
C) Murders were way down in 2014.
D) Obama said nice things about what was been going on there recently.
E) There are still issues.
That's it. I wish I knew more. What happened to the cops who were on the job then? Who are the cops on the job now? Let me know.
[Update: a 2018 post.]
Checking just now, murders in Camden were way down in 2014: just 33 compared to 58 in 2013. That's a great reduction! The 2015 pace seems in line with 2014. But this is a city with just 77,000 people. 33 murders? It's not great. Even by violent US standards, a city with 77,000 peoples should have maybe 4 homicides a year. Not 33.
The other night I was talking to a friend of mine. She had just received a #BlackLivesMatters bracelet and said I could get one, too. I confessed, a bit apologetically, that I won't wear a #BlackLivesMatters bracelet. It's not that I don't care about black lives. It's because I don't agree with the ideological baggage that goes with the hashtag. I work with police. #BlackLivesMatter, in my humble opinion, sees police as the problem. [If that logic doesn't make sense and you're liberal. Let me say this. I'm not wearing a "pro-life" bracelet either. And that despite the fact that I absolutely love life.]
It's the "petite intelligentsia" that worry me. (Yeah, I'm coining that term, damnit.) What bothers me is the public shaming of people who "don't get it." Maybe O'Malley doesn't "get it," but does that make him "not human"? Come on, now.
The Left has a horrible tendency to cannibalize itself. (Sanders isn't the problem, Ted Cruz is!) Remember that great peace protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention? (I don't. I wasn't born yet. But thank God liberals helped get Nixon in office. We never had Humphrey to mess things up.)
From the fringe and not so fringe left, there can be no acceptable intellectual disagreement. If you don't agree with the politically correct movement of the moment, the only acceptable form of disagreement is silence.
I'm not willing to pass the progressive ideological linguistic litmus test. While trying to talk about real police issues on CNN, I was berated for using the word "ghetto" to describe, well, the ghetto. (See pp 16-17 of Cop in the Hood if you want a more articulate defense.) I've been interrupted for using the word "riot" to talk about, well, a riot. Most recently, I was actually reproached on NPR for using the word "criminals" to describe, well, people who commit crimes. My message to the Left: stop this!
When Batts got fired, somebody asked me, "But what does this do for the 'reform' movement?" I think my answer was something none-too subtle like, "If Batts is 'reform," fuck 'reform'! [If you make your position clear, reporters will paraphrase a bit.] I don't care what Batts labeled himself. He wasn't a reformer because he failed at reform. Batts made the problem worse. You don't get credit for what you want to do. You don't get credit for what you should do. You get credit for results."
I want to improve policing. And right or wrong, I see #BlackLivesMatter, the movement, not the concept, as more into blaming police than saving black lives. Maybe that's the point. But then pick a more accurately descriptive hashtag.
The other day I received a flyer (from a young white woman at a George Clinton concert in Queensbridge Park): "Stop Police Terror" it said. Gosh, I'm not for police terror. My eye jumped to the bottom: "Stop Mass Incarceration Network." What's not to like? I am against mass incarceration. I wrote a book against mass incarceration! Great cause. Except for this:
The powers-that-be have continued to unleash their cops to kill and brutalize people.... These killings are the spearpoint of an overall program of suppression that includes mass incarceration and all its consequences. This program of suppression especially targets Black and Latino people and has genocidal implications.... Which Side Are You On?Well, they're having a march in NYC on October 24, if you'd like join. But given these facts, I'm definitely on the side of police.
Is it not possible for one to think there are problems in policing without believing police are evil? You need to let people argue the former without preaching the latter. I want police to kill fewer people. And I think the best way to get police to kill fewer people (blacks included) is to, well, get police to shoot less often.
So if you take the macro lessons of history and racism and violence and conflate that with individual police incidents today? Well, maybe history will prove you right... but I doubt it. Focusing on police as the problem rather than the solution will result in more black deaths (see Baltimore post-riot).
And if you think this "seasonal uptick" in Baltimore homicides is a small price to pay for a step toward a better society? Well, personally I think you're morally and intellectually delusional. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But hell on earth is paved with people who do the wrong thing and say, "gotta try harder!" (Put that on your inspirational poster.)
But back to Camden.... Now I understand that these murders are, well, crimes. In theory, the state investigates crimes and then arrests and prosecutes the offender. In theory "justice" is served (which happens about a third of the time). But if a cop kills you, there's little recourse. It is different when the state takes your life. This matters. This matter a lot. I do understand. But still, just look at this part of Camden. These little flags are murders since 2003. What are we going to do about it?
Let me zoom in on just a few blocks. And these are really small blocks. From top to bottom is half a mile. This whole area is about one-fifth of a square mile.
You might not believe what a small area this is. So here's google satellite view so you can see individual homes.
I want you to see the individual homes. I want you to understand that people are born here, grow up here, live here, and die here. This is America, too.
Atlantic to Sheridan on Louis Street? 2,000 feet and 20 homicides. How many people even live there? I don't know. A few hundred? There have been about 24 homicides within a few hundred feet of Bonsall Elementary School. Gosh, I wonder why their test scores are slightly below average? Must be the "soft bigotry low expectations."
In Camden there's hardly a corner where somebody hasn't been murdered. And #BlackLivesMatter says murder at the hands of police is the biggest problem? Get real.
Let's talk black lives. Let's talk War on Drugs. Let's talk mass incarceration. Let's talk racism and a whole class of people left behind by a free market and political system that couldn't give a damn. Let's talk good policing. Let's talk police abuse. But you can't demand intellectual acquiescence as a precondition.
As to police in Camden? I got no clue. Let me know what's going on. But more importantly, tell me how we're going to make things better?
Updated homicide numbers