A Tale of Two Newspapers

More policing reduces crime - so we should reduce policing?

Most conservatives, and even a few liberals, have had the experience of reading articles in two different publications about what are supposed to be the same events, but the descriptions are so different that it's hard to believe that the writers are talking about the same planet.

For example, we have the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times discussing the effect of the anti-police riots which have come to be known as the "Ferguson effect."

The New Nationwide Crime Wave

The Journal published "The New Nationwide Crime Wave."

The nation's two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America. In Baltimore, the most pressing question every morning is how many people were shot the previous night. Gun violence is up more than 60% compared with this time last year, according to Baltimore police, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. May has been the most violent month the city has seen in 15 years.

In Milwaukee, homicides were up 180% by May 17 over the same period the previous year. Through April, shootings in St. Louis were up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%. "Crime is the worst I've ever seen it," said St. Louis Alderman Joe Vacarro at a May 7 City Hall hearing.

Murders in Atlanta were up 32% as of mid-May. Shootings in Chicago had increased 24% and homicides 17%. Shootings and other violent felonies in Los Angeles had spiked by 25%; in New York, murder was up nearly 13%, and gun violence 7%.

Those citywide statistics from law-enforcement officials mask even more startling neighborhood-level increases. Shooting incidents are up 500% in an East Harlem precinct compared with last year; in a South Central Los Angeles police division, shooting victims are up 100%.

The Journal identified the root cause of this sudden reversal of our longstanding decline in violent crime:

The most plausible explanation of the current surge in lawlessness is the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.


President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, before he stepped down last month, embraced the conceit that law enforcement in black communities is infected by bias.


Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.

Similar "Ferguson effects" are happening across the country as officers scale back on proactive policing under the onslaught of anti-cop rhetoric. Arrests in Baltimore were down 56% in May compared with 2014.

Police Unions Must Not Block Reform

The New York Times, in contrast, published "Police Unions Must Not Block Reform."

THE decline of public trust in the police we've seen after a string of incidents in Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland, New York and Baltimore has many causes. Policies like hot-spot policing and stop-and-frisk searches - outgrowths of the "broken windows" law enforcement strategy - have put enormous pressures on minority and low-income communities. But the role played by police unions in shielding their members from accountability for excessive force has also contributed to the erosion of trust.

Coming from the staunchly pro-union Times, those are harsh words indeed.  What's worse, their criticism of "broken windows" is wrong-headed.  They overlook the fact that Singapore, where miscreants are fined $2,000 for discarding a gum wrapper on the sidewalk or caned for what would be considered minor vandalism in the US, is the ultimate testimony to the effectiveness of "broken windows" policing.  By stomping on small crimes with hobnailed boots (occasionally literally), Singapore has pretty much eliminated crime altogether.  Instead of offering constructive suggestions, the Times seems to blame police racism for bad outcomes:

In many instances, we found that force was much more likely to be used against African-Americans than against whites.

After describing many union agreements which make it difficult to investigate violence involving police or to discipline violent officers, the Times blamed the deterioration on the relationship between police and communities on the police themselves:

The obstacles to correcting police misconduct have not only undermined confidence in the police, especially among minorities, but have actually placed officers at greater risk by damaging relations between police departments and communities.

Which Is It?

These newspapers have diametrically opposed views of the recent crime surge.  The Journal points out that many officers have responded to howling mobs destroying the careers of police officers who did no wrong by reducing enforcement actions against black criminals.  This lets thugs work their will on their communities, particularly in places where strict gun-control laws make it illegal for citizens to step into the void created when police back off.  The forces of political correctness want to blame racism in the justice system for the disproportionate number of blacks who are in jail.

As attorney general, Eric Holder pressed the cause of ending "mass incarceration" on racial grounds; elected officials across the political spectrum have jumped on board.

Are more black in jail than whites because of racism in the justice system, or are there more blacks in jail because blacks commit more crimes than whites?

Recognizing the Problem

A few weeks after their anti-union editorial, the Times described the real problem:

A month and a half after six officers were charged in Mr. Gray’s death, policing has dwindled in some of Baltimore’s most dangerous neighborhoods, and murders have risen to levels not seen in four decades. The totals include a 29-year-old man fatally shot on this drug corner last month. Police union officials say that officers are still coming to work, but that some feel a newfound reluctance and are stepping back, questioning whether they will be prosecuted for actions they take on the job.

Police officers realize that any act of police violence can be prosecuted if the prosecutors want to win political points. They have found that members of the community surround them whenever they talk to potential arrestees, videoing everything and making derogatory comments.  Without the support of the community, a police officer knows that his career can be destroyed at any time just for doing his job.  Given the silence about the Baltimore murder rate from the racist reverends and other leaders, they know that black lives don't matter to blacks unless they're killed by whites.

So let's review what's happened:

  • George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin by a jury who heard testimony that the two were struggling.  The witness couldn't say who'd been on top, but Mr. Zimmerman's wounds from having his head bashed into the sidewalk convinced the jury that he was on the bottom and that his life had been in danger when he shot Mr. Martin.  The howling mob has made it very difficult for Mr. Zimmerman to make a living.
  • Officer Darren Wilson wasn't charged when he shot Mr. Brown in Ferguson.  The evidence forced the US Justice department to conclude that Mr. Brown had in fact tried to take away the officer's gun; like the grand jury, the Justice Department was forced to the conclusion that Officer Wilson's life was in danger and that he had acted reasonably in shooting Mr. Brown.  In spite of this double determination of innocence, the howling mob has destroyed Officer Wilson's career and quite possibly his life.
  • Nobody was charged when Eric Garner died after violently resisting arrest in New York City, despite there being not one lonely frightened cop but at least four strapping, well-armed policemen up against one unarmed, older, rather chubby, but violent arrestee.
  • When Mr. Gray died in police custody, the mayor of Baltimore told the police to "give the demonstrators space."  They obeyed, and the city proceeded to burn unimpeded.  100 officers were injured in the rioting while six officers were charged with murder regarding Mr. Gray's death.  The police were wrong to ignore their oaths of office and stop protecting the community, but who can blame them?

What can be done?  We could revive the former custom of shooting looters instead of giving them space.  The morning after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Mayor Eugene Schmitz put up notices all over town warning that:

The Federal Troops, the members of the Regular Police Force and all Special Police Officers have been authorized by me to KILL any and all persons found engaged in Looting or in the Commission of Any Other Crime.

Reports of the number of looters killed vary from a dozen to a hundred.  Just think how much worse the looting might have been without this order!

Lessons are being learned. The Times said:

But residents, clergy members and neighborhood leaders say the past six weeks have made another reality clear: that as much as some officers regularly humiliated and infuriated many who live here, angering gang members and solid citizens alike, the solution has to be better policing, not a diminished police presence.

How do we get "better policing?" The Boston Herald reported that the murder clearance rate in black neighborhoods is far lower than in white neighborhoods because blacks don't talk to the police. The Times documented the same phenomenon in Baltimore.

Police officers aren't mind-readers; they can't put away bad guys without help from the community. If the community is going to protest or riot whenever the police arrest anyone, they aren't going to be many arrests.

Will the crime spikes which are happening in all our Democrat Disaster Cities lead to more cooperation between citizens and the police?  Will inner-city citizens demand the right to protect themselves and start agreeing with the NRA?

History suggests another highly likely and deeply disturbing outcome: Will some totalitarian politician offer to clean up crime if given supreme power to ignore due process?  Time will tell, but this doesn't seem to be a story that will end well.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

I don't agree with broken windows policing strategy and, in the United States at least, I think it's unconstitutional in several ways (right to face one's accuser, cruel & unusual punishment, etc).

Beyond the legal, I also think it's fool's gold. It works short-term but ultimately creates a police state mentality, builds resentment and leads to large-scale civil unrest and rebellion.

Singapore is a bad example because it does not have the extreme racial diversity of the United States. It has mixed-Asian diversity but not the extreme sorts that we have here with colors from every corner of the globe. European white, Asian white, African black, US black, Puerto Rican, Korean, etc... all crammed together and told to behave and then played off each other for stats, quotas, appointments and favored status.

Don't trade liberty for security. If urban environments cannot be policed in a constitutional way, and without riots occurring, let them decay and suffer the consequences. The middle class moves away, the government puts tax money elsewhere and the animals kill each other off.

June 18, 2015 1:01 PM
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