By Leslee Kulba – Heather Mac Donald, a Fellow of the Manhattan Institute specializing in urban issues, concluded her 2016 book, “The War on Cops,” saying:
To illustrate why African-American kids in inner cities choose crime, she referenced Alice Goffman’s book, On the Run. While the book has been discredited for embellishment, events like those described are surely happening. It tells the story of a white-privilege girl choosing to embed herself in a Philadelphia gang, where for several city blocks dysfunction, violent crime, and encounters with the criminal justice system are everyday events. Toward the end of the book, Goffman is driving the car for a buddy who has a gun and is seeking revenge. Further making the point that crime is a nurture-not-nature phenomenon, Goffman dedicates a chapter to the “clean people,” a small group of friends who choose to hold down menial-labor jobs, hang together, and abide by the laws.
In addition to interviewing key people in the criminal justice systems of Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, Mac Donald took to the streets to interview criminals with long rap sheets, both in and out of prison, as well as law-abiding citizens like apartment superintendents trying to keep rampant urination, doping, commotion, robbery, and assault out of their buildings. “Clean people,” Mac Donald explains, want to be safe; they want to enjoy the same rights as the “elite liberals” pushing de-policing enjoy in their posh apartments with doormen. Removing violent people from the streets is not so much a function of racist cops attacking innocents as it is answering calls for service and investigating suspicious behavior in order to create some semblance of quality of life for those who can’t afford to live among lawyers and esteemed academics.
Mac Donald is a firm believer in former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Broken Windows style of policing. Giuliani believed selective enforcement of the law was leaving too many people wondering how much they could get away with, so he cracked down on everything. Officers not only stopped people for selling loosies, they engaged in proactive policing, stopping, questioning, and frisking people acting suspicious or known to have extended criminal histories. By doing so, “crime” dropped 12% in one year in NYC, and 50% over the next 20 years nationwide, as other jurisdictions followed suit. An ongoing debate unlikely to be resolved involves people like Asheville City Councilor Keith Young, who argued the Fourth Amendment is inviolable, and Mac Donald, who says that approach requires somebody to be dead or seriously injured before police may intervene.
The Campaign –
There is obviously a push in this country to reduce policing. There are many good reasons; for example, fear of a police state gaining the power it did in Germany, prisons serving as crime schools where inmates share their secrets, the apparent failure of the War on Drugs and plea bargaining to do anything to weaken organized crime, and most importantly, the human potential wasted in sitting around incarcerated and released with scarred records. Mac Donald challenges widespread allegations about America loading its prisons with people on minor drug charges. One reason is, criminal justice systems are too overloaded to arrest, book, set bail, prosecute, and sentence people for personal use. Even hardened criminals committing violent acts have a wealth of exit doors, like plea bargains, diversionary sentencing, and dismissals for technical errors.
“The incident, which surely will come” was easy to find for the de-policing movement. Cops carry guns for self-defense and the defense of the community. In 2014, police officers would be responsible for killing over 1,000 people. Surely one of those murders would involve a white cop shooting a black man, and then Ferguson happened. The media told of a random gentle giant mercilessly calling, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” But police records and recorded video show Michael Brown aggressively stealing cigarillos. Darren Wilson, aware the suspect was at large, stopped somebody who fit the description carrying boxes of cigarillos. Forensics and eyewitness accounts confirmed Brown had punched Wilson in the face, tried to grab his gun, and charged him. Eyewitnesses and authorities claiming otherwise kept changing their stories, and signs of witness intimidation abounded.
Eric Garner and Freddie Gray were also stopped on suspicion and resisting arrest. But agitators had their poster children and a playbook for inciting riot. “The 24-hour cable news cycle, with its insatiable craving for live visual excitement, creates a codependency between reporters and rioters,” wrote Mac Donald. But, “until editors and reporters from the Times start patrolling dark stairwells in housing projects and running toward gang gunfire, their superior concern for black men will lack credibility.”
Armed with anecdote and backed by public opinion, the push for de-policing made its way to City Hall. In Asheville, the campaign started with Dee Williams, Ian Mance, and Patrick Conant complaining about Asheville police officers disproportionately stopping African-Americans. The data presented were not unlike what had been presented in other communities, according to Mac Donald. The cherry-picking of data, with juggled denominators, conflated parameters, and ignored context to make it look like cops are going after black and brown people instead of criminals, were the same.
Mac Donald takes particular umbrance with Jeffrey Fagan, a recurring expert witness affiliated with George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. Mance, himself, is a Soros Justice Fellow of the OSF hosted by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, “to use powerful and newly-available statistical evidence to expose and directly challenge the systemic practice of racial profiling in several North Carolina counties.”
Another parallel between Mac Donald’s observations and what happened in Asheville is the way any opposition was silenced. Over what felt like six months, council heard reports and public comment on “systemic racism” in the police department. The cause celebre was the brutalization of Johnnie Rush who, according to all accounts, was a good citizen minding his own business. Week after week, Conant would talk, sometimes three times at city council meetings. Mance would come in from Durham on occasion. Williams and others would regularly speak during public comment. Citizens at-large were never made aware of opportunities to contribute to the dialogue, as discussions and votes were always sprung on the agenda as meetings unfolded. Staff did not weigh pros and cons, and council committees didn’t have a chance to reconcile different viewpoints. The only people to speak in opposition were representatives of law enforcement who, not having to be on their game the next morning, could stick around for general public comment at 9 or 10pm.
Why couldn’t council be democratic? The conservative viewpoint is not intended to evilly smite some enemy, but to point out how the immediate feel-good of progressive policy destroys those it is purported to help in the long run. By advocating for de-policing, African-American communities are turning on themselves. In 2015, 258 African-Americans died in police shootings, while 6,095 died in civilian fire. For everybody’s sake, good police chiefs will increase patrolling where violence runs high.
According to Mac Donald, de-policing was accompanied by a 12% spike in homicides in 2015. The numbers were worse in big cities; for example Cleveland saw a 90% increase. “If the Black Lives Matter movement were correct,” wrote Mac Donald, “this falloff in discretionary policing should have been a boon to black lives. Instead, a bloodbath ensued, and its victims were virtually all black. When the cops back off, blacks pay the greatest price.”
In closing, “There is no New York City institution more dedicated to the proposition that ‘black lives matter’ than the New York Police Department; thousands of black men are alive today who would have been killed years ago had data-driven policing not brought down the homicide levels of the early 1990s.”