Just Say No To Campaign Zero

I suppose that is a strong statement but the reality of Campaign Zero is that it is a very foolish attempt to solve a number of serious problems.  The Broken Windows Policing policy was intended to stop crime in high crime neighborhoods.  Its execution was somewhat short of good policy.  When drug dealing and criminal gangs are problems in the community then those who use those illegal drugs in public are going to be targets for the police.  You see, gang members, drug dealers, drug users, and other criminals don’t where uniforms that identify them according to their habits.  Unless on has a job that can support one’s drug habit then one is forced to seek money from those who have it.  Drug use is not victim less by any standard.  Just as prostitution is not without its victims. so drug use caries that same standard.  Should prostitution be a crime?  No, but being a pimp is.  Should using drugs be a crime?  Ah, now we get into a grey area.  The answer is no, it should not be a crime per se but the consequences are using drugs often means one must turn to theft to pay of the drugs of choice.  We could let our various governments sell these drugs and thus try and keep them somewhat “safe” as far as ingredients go as well as keeping the cost so low that those who would seek to profit from their sale would find it uneconomical.

The other problem is that those who have mental health problems can be a real concern to others.  Back in the sixties when the courts rules that those with mental problems, including those with low levels of intelligence could no longer be “warehoused” in institutions unless they posed a threat to society or themselves, the institutions were opened and the former inmates were let loose in the streets.  The result is that most of these people receive little treatment or help and are often targets for violent crime.  Again, Broken Window policing takes place in moderate to high crime areas.  And most of these areas are populated with individuals who lack employment or other resources for living a suitable life.  Not all theses areas a Black in population.  In many urban areas one can find high concentrations of poor Latinos, Whites, and other groups.  Stop and frisk, racial profiling, and other actions happen not because the police are being discriminatory but because these areas are where the crime happens to be.

Of course this moves us on the the idea that the police can limit the use of force in these high crime areas.  Again, if there were some way to detect from a distance those who are armed them many of the deaths caused by the police could be avoided.  Well, that’s not going to happen anytime soon.  The idea that we should limit the use of force is a good one.  One of the ways to do this is to have more cops walking the beat when ever possible.  But cops have been pricing themselves out of a job.  One of the best ways for Campaign Zero to make the urban areas safer is the outlaw all public employee unions.  If you want greater control over the police department and its policies, it you want it to be more forthright in its investigations and reporting, then stop all public employee unions.  Outlaw all public employee fraternal organizations as well.  Roll back the obscene salaries and hire more patrolmen.  Get them out of the cars and SUVs.  Pair rookies and veterans so the experienced can teach the inexperienced.  And to combat internal corruption, make sure that everyone changes partners every year.

The idea of independent investigation and prosecution has it’s own problems.  If one has special units designed just for that purpose then those people will often go out of their way to justify their jobs and become destructive.  Usually the internal affairs people can do a capable job when it comes to the normal corruption investigation.  On the other hand, I would favor appointing retired law enforcement individuals for each individual occurrence.  If a policeman draws his weapon and wounds or kills a citizen, then hire several retired law enforcement individuals from various disciplines as needed.  Use a team of both local, state, and national retirees on a one time only basis.  One, you will not have to pay outrageous salaries.  Two, on one is around long enough to make a career out of it.  Three, these people will not have a reason to always side with the cop being investigated.  and four, by having a cross section of retired local cop, retired FBI, retired US Marshal, and retired State trooper, one has a diverse cross section of experience and perspective.  Do the same with the prosecutors.  When it comes time to try the case, let former DAs and even judges take the case to court.

As for civilian oversight, that is what the mayor and city council are suppose to provide to the voters, to the community.  Is a separate commission really needed?  Remember, there is a difference between a commission that sets policies and standards and one that investigated complaints.  If you want a complaint “commission”, then staff it the same way, let retired law enforcement staff the commission on short periods of membership.  If I am a retired cop and appointed for one year only, then I’m not really owned by the system.  I don’t owe anyone in the department any allegiance and will not be around long enough to do any great favors.  When it comes to policing policy, then I would think that a community commission where community representatives can help to direct the mayor and city council will be of better benefit.  Give them veto power over any proposed policy change.  That would also help with the immoral property and cash seizures that go on every day.  The law was intended to thwart organized crime but has become a way to “capture” free money and assets for the police department and the city.  Of course the idea of a mayor and city council passing laws that make it easy to extort the very citizens they serve is just as immoral.  Using cops to collect parking ticket fines, hand out tickets for what amounts to harassment policies that increase city revenues is an outrage.  This is a practice that should and must be stopped.

The idea that the local police departments should reflect the percentage of minorities is a bit out of line.  If the city has areas of high crime and those high crime areas are primarily of one minority group, then one may be arguing that only members of the police force who are members of such a minority group should be policing their “own kind”.  That is a rather brash act of discrimination.  If I am a member of a minority, why should I, as a police officer be limited to only serving in those high crime areas.  Why can’t I go police I the rich folks part of town?  Do we need greater representation from each minority group on the police forces?  Yes, but not all of those who would qualify to be policemen want the job.  It will take time for more individuals of minority groups to join such organizations.

Finally, we do need to take the military out of the police.  The fact that re refer to non police as civilians and the not the police means we have already accepted the idea that the police should be considered military or at least para military.  clearly, this is the wrong attitude.  Instead of military ranks maybe we should refer to all police as civil servants and addressed as Mr or Ms.  No more rank.  A patrolman is just that, a patrolman.  A rank of sergeant is now supervisor.  the next level is manager, and so on.  The police are the keepers of the public peace, the public order.  Their function, as has been defined by the US supreme Court is to investigate crime and arrest the perpetrators.  They do not “Enforce the Law.”  So take away the body armor and any military type of weapon.  With more cops on the beat there will be less need for the over arming of the police and squads of specially equipped can be deployed at a minute’s notice.  And by all means, our police should wear body cameras.  Any act of turning them off should result in immediate dismissal.

But all these changes will not stop the deaths of urban minorities who attract attention to themselves.  That will take a change in the mindset of many urban minorities faced with decades of poverty.  Most cities and a number of states make the creation of businesses, both local and state wide, almost impossible.  High taxes, fees, and other forms of government interference mean that few individuals are willing to open businesses that would employ the urban poor.We can’t throw all the blame at the feet of the police and then walk away as if we have now solved the problem.  It’s going to take a great deal more effort than that.

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