Crime has been down for decades, but incarceration is still sky-high and brutality cases keep tearing the country apart. Does policing in America need a fundamental re-think?
Pretty sure having the Mossad train the police trainers was a bad idea as well. We also need to demand every agency comply with a psychological evaluation and screening process before we start handing out military grade weapons to them. There seems to be a cult inside some agencies that makes sure the non psycho cops are too scared to report the psycho ones.
I live in ultra-liberal Los Angeles and I can assure you crime is up and incarceration is down. The reason: our politicians decriminalized crimes. I have a charitable store in an affluent area, our proceeds help animals and the homeless. There are meth heads doing drugs on the sidewalk, commercial and residential break ins are routine. I have had thugs walk out with our donation jar and nothing I can do because if there's less than $950 in there it's a misdemeanor. Other stores have the same issues: employees and paying customers stand helplessly by as criminals and/or homeless load up their bags with merchandise, liquor or whatever they want and calmly walk out the door. They dare not intervene or they risk injury. Nothing can be done because as long as they take under $950 worth of merchandise it would be a ticket and cops won't respond to it anyway. 88 buildings were burned on Melrose during the riots this week. I'm terrified to lose my store. The homeless rely on our ability to provide clothing, food, vet assistance for their pets.
Crimes are occurring they're just not reflecting in the stats because crime is not a crime anymore.
Matt, you're not wrong, but you're thinking backwards. Without some socially agreed-upon construct, wilders and mercenaries would rule every neighborhood in America, which would be reduced to enclaves -- of same-religion, same-language, same-faith clumps of families. It's local consciousness vs what are perceived as universal truths, Matt. The hive or hornet's nest has a lot more parallel segments than a two-room billet -- that is, the idea of binary codes dominating everything is seductive but flawed. What police actually do would exist if no one was ever hired as a police force. It would all be ad-hoc and vigilante, and it would be a whole lot worse than police forces killing 50 whites and 20 blacks a year. The best examples are the neighborhoods where crime presumably is high -- just as existed in Rome at least 2000 years ago. Unofficial gangs or triads or Benevolent Associations or Cattlemen Clubs would immediately proliferate like crazy. And deaths occurring in the interests of "order" would multiply by 10,000 times. To try to "fix" human nature is always absurd and dangerous -- if it can be done, it destroys humanity. Instead, policing is like a lot of other skills -- it is intended to reduce the incidence of violence for the benefit of the community. Our police organizations are much, much better than what would take their place. I always try to remember that Thoreau 's friend (or friends) paid his tax bill so he wouldn't have to be incarcerated indefinitely. Theoretical anarchy is beautiful, but just look at what we do to each other when lef6 to our own devices. On issues like this, I expect to see Amazon, Google, and other avatars of homogeneous societies to wholly agree with Matt's analysis. Not because they appreciate analysis, but because race hatred, like other forms of self-destroying tribal glue, creates so much space to make the Masters of the Universe appear magnanimous. After 42 years of massive wealth transfer from the least wealthy to the obscenely rich, the most desperate victims attack each other over scraps and crumbs. Same as it ever was. The "Modern" solution is the one-World, all-knowing Big Brother who sees us all as equals and treats us all the same, all the time. Satellite-id chips for everyone. The point here is that local control, decentralization, and individual liberty will always protect some degree of prejudice and even ignorance. In the same way that Jack Dorsey fantasizes that there is only one set of ideas any good person could possibly consider, Matt doesn't see the potential thugs in our midst. And we are all potential thugs. That's human DNA 101.
When I was 19, myself and a group of about 30 Black & Latino kids from Santa Monica went to Will Roger's state Park - to hike, play football and engage in some BS. My great grandfather had actually been a groundskeeper there in the early 30s I believe. Well after we some dumbshit the LAPD came with about 10 cars, a helicopter and about 15 cops who proceeded to beat the shit out of us, put us on our knees and call us niggers and beaners. The story is mentioned in M Davis' City of QUARTZ. We were known as the "Will Rodgers Park kids."
Luckily, the grandfather of Lewayne Williamson, one of our homies, was President of the SM/ Venice NAACP and we started a suit. Sorry to go on, but the most memorable thing the main cop said to us was ( i am quoting directly since I remember it so well) "I take my kid to school every morning and I point to you punks and tell him, 'they are the enemy.' And I have to tell you I get a hard on each morning knowing I may have the chance to beat the shit out of one of you."
These are very memorable events. The less memorable ones are being pulled over every day. Failure to stop, illegal right turn, looking suspicious, you resemble a suspect we are looking for, or just fuck you pull over. I have had cops choke me, put a gun to my head, handcuff me and kick me in the back into bushes and have been arrested for assault on a police officer for touching his hand as he pushed me down.
On holloween we would go to the northside, cuz our white friends would invite us to parties. Yes, we acted up - just like they did. One year, we were ordered back to the south part of town. They told us the route to take. They put a car on each corner and we had to walk 10+ blocks back below Whilshire blvd. We had cars, but we lied so they would not do as usual - take our dashboards apart, our speakers, turn the trunk inside out, and ravage the seats. They would then had us a zip lock bag with the screws and leave. Yes, sometimes they found a joint, a knife or some stupid shit. We were kids. Rough kids for sure.
A year later a few friends and I were shot in a drive by. One lost his life, and I took five. I have to note - we were officially listed as gang members and for many of us, that was true. We had formed clubs, packs and crews just like the surfers, taggers, and skaters. The cops asked us if we saw anything and in the shock of the moment we prob described the car or something but we said we don't talk to cops - like EVERYONE says in the hood. My point is - they never - ever called me or followed up. Four people shot, one killed. No investigation - NONE. But the second we went to 2nd st where all the looting recently happened - we got busted up and kicked out. We were "banned" from the mall and the 3rd St Promenade. Shit I even got kicked out of prom by the "gang unit."
Sorry for rambling, but all of this stuff now brings back so many memories. It was a low intensity warfare. Our communities were occupied. Young Black and brown men were targeted. But also, (my long ass point here) it was all done in spectacle to show the white neighbors and older folks and us that they were in charge and that we were some sort of (more handsome) version of the Sopranos or something. Or worse, some 3rd world band of thugs or somali pirates. We were kids. Stupid kids, as kids are. Many times White people would come by and clap or say "good job officer." I fucken hated that.
We all want peace, a nice home, a good job, health and a safe community. And now everyone is SM has most of that - it is just without us. It was a precursor to the gentrification, and as we all moved to Inglewood - when the whites moved out of there after the high school was integrated in 1979. The same shit was happening there. Funny thing is there were no White people to protect there. As you say, it is just there job - "order" AKA were the boss - shut the fuck up - get on the floor and show me some ID - Now go home or we will shoot you.
So in 1992 - WE BURNED THAT BITCH DOWN. WTF else would we do. But it all just happens over and over again. Anyway, love the story will check out that book.
Straight talk. Best thing I have read since seeing the murder online.
Once again Matt great thought with no bias. What Good journalism used to be!
This is a tragic situation we find ourselves in. No one really believes the BS coming out of the authorities anymore. After being lied to via Russiagate, WMD, shamed into giving up livelihoods for “social distancing and virtue signaling lockdowns, and seeing the unfair treatment of our fellow citizens we can understand the pain and frustration in communities of color and low-income citizens. Thank God for video cameras. Rodney King wasn’t a one-off. There is no nuance in reporting today. Legitimate protesters are being lumped in with ANTIFA and crazy people who want free box wine and TV’s. It’s sad. Nothing has really changed since in 1968.
This is a really bad time in America. Much of it stems from the corporatization of the prison industrial complex being fed money by the Biden crime bill, three strikes and you’re out, the idiotic war on drugs, and the unequal application of the law for those with money vs those who get a horrible public defender.
I have nothing else to say except this may last a lot longer than we think.
Thank you Matt. Also note the unprecedented looting by Wall Street, identical imperial foreign policy by Dems and Repubs, the entire Epstein pedophile saga silenced and all participants above the law, Russia-gate hoax, evangelical extremists at CDC completely mishandling Covid response, etc., etc. Apparently our country can't reform itself at all
The bigger picture is that our police forces have been militarized. I agree that minority/poor populations are more often seen as the enemy than white middle/upper class populations. But I disagree with the efforts to compartmentalize this issue into a purely racial problem. Plenty of white unarmed individuals are murdered by hyped up cops - a quick search of the internet will give you plenty of examples. And plenty of white folks are violently abused by the police every day for suspected minor offenses, cases of mistaken identity, and other incidents that don't justify the abuse. Someone will probably call me a racist for saying this (for reasons I won't be able to understand) but I wish the conversation would focus on police brutality against all people in this country (except of course the elite who get away with everything without consequence).
Even as a Reagan conservative, I continue to love your work. It is provocative and you seem open to evidence and persuasion. This causes people like me to listen more carefully to people like you.
In nearly 40 years as a liberal turned conservative (1980), I have never heard any conservative, no matter how redneck, try to justify some of the gross errors in judgment that some police officers make. But I believe you overstate the problem. I am sure that being hassled for quality of life crimes is tiresome, even infuriating. But two points must be made. First, blacks are disproportionately represented in anti-social crimes. Their disproportionate clash with police is at least somewhat responsible for this reality. Second, the drop in crime cannot be conveniently disassociated from incarceration by arguing that there is a time lag from mass incarceration to the drop in crime. Even as many sentences imprison bad actors, this changes the calculation of risk by future potential actors. I can guess that we will start to see an upsurge in crime as we relax incarceration and enforcement of quality of life crimes. Time will tell.
You make the point several times that the police enforced race codes and now enforce quality of life crimes. You seem to argue that the police are in error for doing so. Let me see if I can give an alternative explanation and another “villain.”
I would argue that the police enforce whatever the social norm is that is reflective of the current thinking of the zeitgeist of the particular time in which they practice policing. If the zeitgeist changes, policing will change. The proper “villain” then is the zeitgeist, not the police.
If you want policing to reflect a different norm, change the zeitgeist. You cannot possibly argue that policing has become more racist or less professional in the last 50 years. Police reflect the standards of society.
Your complaint is that the zeitgeist’s norms offend your sensibilities. But your job is to change those norms, not scapegoat the institution that is merely reflecting these norms.
You say police hassle “for every conceivable minor offense – public intoxication, public urination, riding bicycles the wrong way down a sidewalk, refusing to obey police orders, jumping subway turnstiles, and, in Garner’s case, selling loose cigarettes.” Can you appreciate that the vast majority of taxpayers who work hard and play by the rules are offended by the behaviors you seem to blithely dismiss?
I may agree with your more genteel sensibilities and would be willing to join you in advancing a more “civilized” approach to policing. But don’t blame the police for carrying out the expectations of the people who don’t complain much. The social experiment of “liberal” institutional change has failed.
I have listened to lots of commentary over the last few days. One lament I heard over and over again was “what do they want?” When Rush Limbaugh asked Charlamagne tha God about his solution, he defaults to “dismantle white supremacy.” Scott Adams rightfully vehemently criticizes that suggestion as incredibly nonspecific. I have not heard any serious analysis leading to specific solutions to “fix the problem.” I wondered WHY?
I have a thesis. Since the mid-1960s, American society has largely accommodated the wish list of many liberals relating to both race and poverty. We have improved the operation of the welfare state to minimize the impact of programs on family structure, instituted affirmative action in education and corporations, adopted minority programs for entrepreneurs, dedicated trillions on education, improved our racial consciousness to the point that the mere utterance of the N word will result in opprobrium in nearly every social situation, improved anti-discrimination laws, dramatically heightened the wall of separation between church and state, elected thousands of black politicians, etc. YET the persistence of the black underclass remains.
My thesis is that we have run out of liberal ideas to implement that seem to seriously tackle any problem that remains. So, we are reduced to Medicare for All, Green New Deal, free college. The problem of the black underclass is now seen as one of structural or institutional racism, with all the eye of the beholder that these amorphous phrases imply.
Focusing on what would help the black underclass, one would have to focus on solutions like culture, family structure, discipline in education, individual initiative, responsibility, spiritual decline, delayed gratification, etc. But these are solutions that have been advocated by conservatives for decades. Indeed, even a liberal Harvard professor like Danial Patrick Moynihan observed in the mid-60s the pernicious effects social programs had on black family structure.
Because the cultural elites would have to admit the failure of their paradigm, they will never embrace these solutions. Thus, we will not make progress.
I became a fan of your writing Matt with your articles on russiagate. You were able to see through the absurd nonsense of the official party line. How strange that you fall for the Fox Butterfield effect. Crime is down because people are in jail. Why is this so hard to believe?
My personal view of it is that this is the Drug War. The point of the Drug War was to distract the citizens from the Viet Nam war. Essentially it was meant to bring the war home and keep the people in line. The Drug War is lifestyle policing. Since pot was as much as a felony and bigger cocaine and heroin being the same and smaller with higher profit margins and a whole other nation & its problems and corruption the product on the streets changed. In fact youth who are adults now, bought the idea of pot as as much of an affliction as heroin or coke. People such as myself represented a spike in suicides since we are old and have chronic pain from our illnesses and have been on time release morphine for many years. We can be found since we get what we
get by prescription. The movement to take from us what we need to function was with its own metrics pivoted and pivots on piss tests and the piss test industry and we get lied about and hurt. Don't get old and ill. You will find you are easier to hurt. Bad laws make a bad society and we have created an American Dystopia. I read that the officer said "See kids this is what happens to you when you do drugs." If he really did say that he proves my view of the fact of our societal reality. Only the ones of pure piss can become police you know. The only bullies I knew in school either became junkies or police. Yes there is a longer history of racism than what has happened since the Viet Nam War and Nixon and his declaration of War on Drugs. I admire Ed Baptist book "The Half Has Never been Told" and love it. Everyone ought read it. However my history is since 1952. Yes there have been wars as we know them, but I and my peers have had our lives stolen as a man suffers in wartimes throughout the years of the Drug War.
Matt: Do you care to comment on WSJ: However sickening the video of Floyd’s arrest, it isn’t representative of the 375 million annual contacts that police officers have with civilians. A solid body of evidence finds no structural bias in the criminal-justice system with regard to arrests, prosecution or sentencing. Crime and suspect behavior, not race, determine most police actions.
In 2019 police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.
The encouragement for police to use steroids to bulk up, ignoring the health and roid-rage side effects, has not been recently investigated to my knowledge; it would explain the sudden and unprovoked violent attacks by police. Matt this is a pervasive problem -that's completely ignored by the MSM and even when officially investigated police steroid stories -just vanish like the Arlington Texas PD steroid scandal -where one charged officer "Vo" committed suicide and charged officers Kantos and Hermans -who were initially linked to the Steroid Scandal -were ultimately dealt with as "Corruption Cases" https://dfw.cbslocal.com/2013/06/14/arlington-police-chief-angry-over-steroid-scandal/
Crime is down? Reported crime is down, but many people don't waste their time reporting crime. Why bother?
Great piece, but.... police did not evolve out of slave patrols. The first night watch patrols were set up in Boston in 1636 and had been set up in New York and Philadelphia, before the first slave patrols were enacted in South Carolina around 1700. The first municipal police forces also began in the North, again beginning in Boston, and were largely used to suppress workers and immigrants at the behest of the local business communities. In southern cities--New Orleans, Baltimore, Washington, St. Louis--municipal police were indeed used to suppress free blacks and slaves.
Beyond the obvious and always present racism and the growing disaffection so many have towards a society and government that clearly does not care for large segments of the population, regardless of color, we have the growing ethos of a warrior mentality, not only among the military, but the police as well, which is seen at nearly any sporting event, where both groups are over represented, both on the field with police now everywhere, but also among many especially NFL coaches who seem to think desert camou fits all occasions, and of course, the now obligatory flyover of the otherwise useless F-35 flying coffin.
I did a tour in Vietnam in 67-68 with the 101st, and when I compare how were "protected" by a useless flack jacket and helmet compared to the robot like garments worn by the police, I can't help but wonder what these people think they're doing, other than to appear as outlandishly over dressed for the occasion. Instead of being ashamed of themselves, I have no doubt the quite like the appearance they pose. Whatever the case, you act like you dress, and the group psychology of the cops is apparent to anyone who has protested in front of them; many of them are clearly itching to apply some "asymmetrical warfare" to the sign carrying people in front of them.
Lastly, the last 19 years of pointless ME wars have not only stoked anti Muslim/Arab racism always latent in this country, many of those having served overseas now wearing blue, it has also clearly increased both the identification and tangible connection between Israel and its views regarding subject populations and both the US political elite and its police arm, many of which now receive training from Israel, a process that has made clear the connection between Israeli political/cultural influence, and events here in the US. Israel did not create the problem, but it has certainly used events to further its influence within this country. I'd love to have five bucks for every time I've heard someone in a position of power defend certain draconian security policies by mentioning how Israel has had to learn that lesson the hard way, and adapted to it. Seemingly, the mere mention of Israel in connection with any action that is questioned is supposed to both be the definitive justification and to end the conversation, there and then.