Commentary: Is the Choice Really Between Abusive Policing and No Policing?

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Associated Press Photo
Associated Press Photo

An article appearing today in Slate Magazine raises the critical issue we have been asking the last two days with ”Analysis Finds Little Evidence to Support a “Ferguson Effect” on Crime” and “Analysis: Police Themselves Are To Blame For Spike in Baltimore Crime.”

“You have a choice: You can have brutal, abusive policing. Or you can have no policing at all,” they write. “That’s the implied message from the Baltimore police officers engaged in a deliberate slowdown, which started after prosecutors charged six of their colleagues in the death of Freddie Gray. Across the city, residents say, there are fewer police on patrol, fewer cops on the corner, fewer people on the beat.”

Bottom line is this: “Less policing has meant more crime.

“For their part, police leaders say officers are still at work but fear prosecution and public attack,” Slate reports.

“What is happening, there is a lot of levels of confusion in the police organization,” explained Commissioner Anthony Batts at a City Council meeting last month. “There are people who have pain, there are people who are hurt, there are people who are frustrated, there are people who are angry. … There are people, and they’ve said this to me, ‘If I get out of my car and make a stop for a reasonable suspicion that leads to probable cause but I make a mistake on it, will I be arrested?’ ”

This is a point that has been brought up repeatedly but it misses a critical element – Freddie Gray was not potentially illegally arrested, he died in custody. So the message that police officers may want to assess is that, if their charge dies while in their custody and it is found that they violated laws, they will face prosecution.

As Slate puts it, “If Baltimore police believe ‘doing their jobs properly’ requires rough rides and other abusive behavior, then they should be in jail.”

As Slate argues, “It’s not that criminals have taken advantage of protests, it’s that police—in their virtual strike against the city—have exacerbated a real and serious crime problem, in service of a false choice between two kinds of lawlessness: One where violent, aggressive cops reign, and the other, where criminals do.”

Like us, Slate argues that there is a third option. This is not an option that either advocates aggressive and abusive policing practices or no policing, but rather, “better, more humane policing.” Contrary to the arguments of some on the right, there is evidence that community-based policing approaches, which gets citizens to buy in and partner with the police, are actually more effective in the long run and reduce tensions – which help the police better do their job.

As Slate put it, reformers want police on the street, doing their jobs, “but didn’t think that should come at the cost of their rights, or their lives.”

The idea behind community policing programs is that you can keep communities safe while holding bad police accountable for their conduct.

Slate writes, “In cities as different and diverse as Camden, New Jersey and Seattle, police have worked with communities to improve relationships, discipline bad actors, and—most importantly—reduce crime. There’s no contradiction. A city where officers and citizens can work together is one where there’s goodwill. Incidents still happen, but they’re mediated by pre-existing relationships and open lines of communication.”

Slate continues, “When Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore Marilyn Mosby charged the responsible officers with Freddie Gray’s death—when she held them responsible—she helped create an opportunity for new, more constructive relationships between the city, the police, and the community.”

However, “With the slowdown, police are squandering that opportunity. By treating the city and its residents as a force to be beaten, these officers are sowing anger and animosity among potential allies. The Baltimore riots—the despair, the violence, and the destruction—were tragic, but if the city can’t learn from them—if it’s stuck in this ill will and resentment—they’ll become an actual tragedy.”

That is the key – accountability. That means holding citizens accountable when they break the law, but also holding the police accountable when they break the law.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 thoughts on “Commentary: Is the Choice Really Between Abusive Policing and No Policing?”

  1. Frankly

    Better and more humane policing for a community what a high percentage of bad and inhumane residents can lead to more injured and dead cops.   That is the part missing from this analysis.  What the left and left media are generally advocating is for law enforcement to accept more injured and dead cops in return for them not upsetting people.

    Frankly, (because I am), although there is certainly room for law enforcement to improve on its tecniques and oversight of cop performance, I think this line of thinking is generally ignorant.

    First, it is not going to help improve any positive outcomes for the people in these communities if the cops stand down and carry a clipboard instead of a baton.  Yes this will difused some tension with the residents, but the increase in injured and dead cops will cause more mistakes as nervous cops overreact to situations where they perceive risk.

    And crime will increase.  And economic circumstances of the residents will not improve.

    So what is the real agenda here?

    The real agenda is the left and left media inflaming racial tensions for political reasons… primarily to deflect from the failure of our social welfare state from decades of failed liberal policies (adopted by politicians in both parties).

    Police are victims of an explosion in poorly behaving people stuck in an inner city subculture where they have little hope for a better life.  The left and media narrative is that cops are responsible for their bad life, and if only the cops would police in a kinder and gentler way these people would have that better life.  This is an asinine narrative… one that only stupid and uninformed people would believe.

    Kinder and gentler policing is a byproduct of a kinder and gentler population.  Police respond to and react to the perception of risks they face, and they perceive the public would face if not preventing suspects from doing crime.

    There are bad cops just as there are bad teachers and bad lawyers and bad (you name the profession).  But there are probably fewer bad cops than exist in these other professions given the challenge to be a cop.  Nevertheless, if we want to reduce the number of bad cops we should consider the impact of unions preventing bad cops from being disciplined and terminated.   And cops should be givn more training for dealing with stressful situations.   And we need more oversight from retired law enforcement professionals cross-jurisdiction to ensure bad practices and bad behavior are corrected.

    But other than these things, this anti-cop narrative has to stop because it is causing more harm.

    1. Don Shor

      And cops should be givn more training for dealing with stressful situations. And we need more oversight from retired law enforcement professionals cross-jurisdiction to ensure bad practices and bad behavior are corrected.

      Excellent suggestions.

    2. Davis Progressive

      “Better and more humane policing for a community what a high percentage of bad and inhumane residents can lead to more injured and dead cops. ”

      i disagree.  cops not beating people, not engaging in excessive force, not shooting unarmed people as they flee, not giving people rough rides are going to lead to more dead cops.  in fact, i would argue, current practices that built up community distrust and resentment are more likely to produce more dead cops.

      there are cities – one not mentioned is a good example – san diego which have built community trust through community policing efforts and have a fairly low crime rate for a city of that size.

      1. sisterhood

        I also strongly disagree that cops behaving humanely will lead to more injured and dead cops. Sometimes officers need to stand down. Ferguson and other incidents may have de-escalated if the officer/officers involved had backed off and waited for back up. Behaving humanely should be the first course of action, always.

        I have not shared this anecdote before. A cop came to my neighbor’s house because her two teenagers were in a loud screaming match after she left for work but before they left for high school. A very nervous neighbor called 911. The cop actually drew his gun on my neighbor’s kid in his front yard. He was in the middle of getting dressed, I think he was arguing with his sister about their bathroom. Anyway, I came out my front door to go to work – there was the kid, with his arms over his head, in his boxer shorts and nothing else. The cop had his gun pointed at him. I told him I knew the kid & asked him if I could approach him, and he kept his gun drawn, but he let me. I said, “What the hell is going on over here?” The kid explained he was fighting with his sister over the bathroom. I looked at the cop and said, “Teenagers. Can you move your car so I can go to work now?”

        Anyone reading this, do you think this was the best way for a Davis cop to respond to a complaint of teenagers screaming in a very docile neighborhood with no history of violence in South Davis?

        This was not the best, most effective, humane approach, imho.

  2. Tia Will

    Frankly

    cops should be given more training for dealing with stressful situations.   And we need more oversight from retired law enforcement professionals cross-jurisdiction to ensure bad practices and bad behavior are corrected.”

    Had this been the entirety of your post, we would have been in complete agreement. However….

    this anti-cop narrative has to stop because it is causing more harm.”

    This comment is nothing more than a call for censorship of ideas with which you do not agree.

    Kinder and gentler policing is a byproduct of a kinder and gentler population”

    And the corollary is also true. A kinder and gentler population, to say nothing of a more cooperative one, would be the result of kinder and gentler policing. This is clearly a two way street.

    The real agenda is the left and left media inflaming racial tensions for political reasons”

    And this is nothing more than your usual ideologic rant and adds nothing at all to your actual points on this subject.

  3. PhilColeman

    First, before anybody urges MORE training on stressful situations, take a look at the existing standard. It is vast, ongoing, and extensive to every circumstance. Except for “special forces” type of elite military training, I can’t think of any profession that gives greater emphasis to this kind of stress training.

    To force the dichotomy found with “more or less” or “either/or” is not the desired choice to be made. You can have aggressive pro-active police presence in a community. You can have acceptance of that same community when the crime circumstance warrants it. I’ve seen it done, and been part of it.

    The solution lies in how you “sell” this notion and how police “buy” into this notion. The Slate article does nothing to promote this ideal. In truth, it overly simplifies the issue and splits it into two camps populated by short-sighted people.

    1. tribeUSA

      Excellent analysis by Phil Coleman–the press continues to frame these complicated issues in foolish and divisive ways.

      And I agree with Frankly’s prior statements to the effect that we cannot expect cops to have perfect snap judgements 100% of the time–certainly we would like them to have good judgement; that is the most that can be expected, not perfection. And so on occassions where the cops judgement appears to be less than 100% perfect, the police are vilified. Effective policing will require judgement calls on the part of individual officers, which sometimes need to be made instantly (and not with 20:20 hindsight); in dangerous neighborhoods that decision-making has to include protection of themselves; and once in a while their judgement may be a little bit off and they may erroneously use excessive force (that has to be weighed against misjudgements in the other direction, where they do not use sufficient force and a dangerous suspect escapes, or the police get injured by suspect(s)). They are now in the position where if they are required to make a rapid decision about use of force; they may be in danger of loss of their job and even possibly criminal charges if it turns out the level of force they use is (or is perceived to be) excessive; and in danger of immediate physical harm to themselves if the suspect turns on them due to an insufficent level of force used by the officer–i.e. they must be able to make perfect rapid judgements 100% of the time when they are in dangerous situations–are you the reader so impeccably perfect?

      The only truly egregious (to a criminal level) act by the police that I have seen mentioned on this forum (and in the mainstream media) is the fleeing suspect who was shot in the back (in North Carolina?), and perhaps the guy in New York selling cigarettes on the street, who died as a result of asthma in conjunction with an unnecessarily forceful takedown by several police. The verdict is still out on the Baltimore incident.

  4. Tia Will

    Phil

    I understand and agree with your point about not turning training into a dichotomy. I do not believe that this kind of black/white approach is useful. However, I do think that there are communities that by the nature of the community itself probably generate the need for more of the “stress situation” training, while in other communities, policing is by its very nature less “stressful”. I think it is important to emphasize differences in need for different amounts of different types of police techniques depending on the needs of  the community rather than assuming that what is enough in one community will suffice for another.

  5. zaqzaq

    David,

    Why do you publish this rubbish.  The direct cause of the reduced arrests in Baltimore is because DA Mosby charged officers Nero and Miller with assault and misconduct in office illegal arrest based on the detention and arrest.  Any competent attorney will kick her ass all over the courtroom on these charges.  Hopefully she will personally participate in the case so the bruises will be hers, not some flunky stuck with the case.  She contacted the Baltimore police department mere weeks before the Grey arrest complaining about the open air drug market in operation at the location where officers initiated contact with Grey.  US Supreme court rulings support the officers decision to detain Grey.  They then found an illegal knife (pursuant a Baltimore city code to according to the Baltimore Police department task force that investigated the death of Grey) and placed him under arrest and in the paddy wagon.  Mosby then comes out and says the knife was legal under state law and that the arrest was illegal.  This decision to charge those two officers for the detention and arrest decimated any initiative on the behalf of the police department in Baltimore.   It is now safer to look the other way and only detain and arrest on 100% solid cases.  The police commissioner mentioned this to the press.  He said this was an issue for his cops.

    Mosby read the charges in the indictment in a press conference in the link below.  The assault and the misconduct in office for an illegal arrest charges are the primary cause for the current state of policing in Baltimore.

    David,

    It is time for you to acknowledge that these charges exist from the arrest and not claim otherwise.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/05/21/baltimore-freddie-gray-indictments/27732775/

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/22/us/six-baltimore-officers-indicted-in-death-of-freddie-gray.html?_r=0

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      in the link you provided: “Initially, Ms. Mosby charged three of the officers with false imprisonment, claiming that they had no legitimate grounds for arresting Mr. Gray. But those charges, which experts said raised issues about how much discretion the police have to detain people, are not in the indictment.”

      so you’re own citation seems to undermine your point.

      ” The direct cause of the reduced arrests in Baltimore is because DA Mosby charged officers Nero and Miller with assault and misconduct in office illegal arrest based on the detention and arrest.”

      as tia points out correctly, the direct cause was a choice that the police made.  they may have been responding to circumstances, but they are not doing their job right now.

      1. zaqzaq

        DP,

        Play the video in the links and you will hear Mosby utter the words misconduct in office for an illegal arrest. Really, you cannot figure out how to listen to the video. That is why I stated,
        “Mosby read the charges in the indictment in a press conference in the link below” in my earlier post. I guess I should not have assumed that you were capable of reading and comprehending my post and then listening to the news conference now forcing me to spell it out for you. Listen to the news conference and you will hear the truth.

  6. tribeUSA

    Yes, the old phrase “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” seems apt here. Politicos, in office or aspiring toward office, are adept at executing the first part of this quoted phrase, and at denying any responsibility for the consequence in the 2nd half of this phrase.

  7. Tia Will

    The direct cause of the reduced arrests in Baltimore is because DA Mosby charged officers Nero and Miller with assault and misconduct in office illegal arrest based on the detention and arrest”

    No, the direct cause in reduced arrests is police deciding how to perform their jobs. You could make the statement that DA Mosby’s actions were a contributing cause to this decision or even what precipitated the decision. But each police officer is directly responsible for his own decision to arrest or not. Police do not get to blame actions that are under no one’s control but their own on others. Unless, of course, you do not believe in individual responsibility for one’s own actions as always seems to be claimed when you are discussing the accused. You simple cannot claim that criminals actions are their own choice and then pretend that police actions are someone else’s fault.

    1. zaqzaq

      Tia,

      You do not understand the issue.  What would happen if every time a doctor misdiagnosed a patient they were arrested and charged with misconduct misdiagnosis of patient?  How would that impact doctors making a diagnosis.  If they were not 100% sure they were right would they pass on it and let someone else make the call.  According to the DA Officers Nero and Miller misdiagnosed the law on the knife and she is charging them with a crime for not getting it right.  Officers do not always get the facts and law right when making an arrest.  There was a story in today’s Bee about a man who was awarded $125,000 for an illegal arrest in a civil lawsuit.  This is the way illegal arrests are handled, much like a medical malpractice lawsuit.  DA Mosby changed the way alleged illegal arrests by police are handled and the officers in Baltimore noticed and adapted the way they police the city.  Instead of making the call on the probable cause of a potential crime, they are looking for certainty and not being as aggressive when they suspect a person has committed a crime.  This is the one single factor that has contributed the most to fewer arrests in Baltimore.
      The majority of the public, much like David, does not understand that the officers where charged for allegedly being wrong on the arrest. I think the arrest was legal based on the information made public and Mosby will lose here.

      1. Davis Progressive

        no you don’t understand the issue.  even your own citation states: “Initially, Ms. Mosby charged three of the officers with false imprisonment, claiming that they had no legitimate grounds for arresting Mr. Gray. But those charges, which experts said raised issues about how much discretion the police have to detain people, are not in the indictment.”

        1. zaqzaq

          I directed yo to listen to the news conference which you obviously did not do.  I am just shocked that you could not follow a simple instruction in that post and figure it out.  Listen to the news conference and you will be properly educated as to the charges in the indictment. Then you will have to concede that my description of the charges is correct and yours in just plain fantasy. Hopefully David will also take a few minutes to listen to the charges listed by Mosby and then he to can admit he was wrong. I invite all Vanguard readers to listen to the news conference so that they can see that I am right and DP and David are wrong. Then they will be able to see that the analysis by the two of you is flawed because it is based on incorrect facts.

      2. Tia Will

        zaqzaq

        You do not understand the issue.  What would happen if every time a doctor misdiagnosed a patient they were arrested and charged with misconduct misdiagnosis of patient? “

        As a doctor, I thoroughly understand the issue. I just see it differently from you. First, this is not “every time”. This is one particular instance. Now if one particular surgical team or even a few,  are falsely accused of making an error, does this mean that every doctor should choose to stop operating because of a few instances. If I chose to stop operating on this basis, then I should not be advertising my services as a surgeon. I should find another line of work, not blame someone else for my decision.

        1. zaqzaq

          Doctors told 19-year-old Bronte Doyne and her family to “stop Googling” her symptoms after they brought up the possibility that her rare liver cancer had returned. By the time she was readmitted to the hospital in March of 2013, it was already too late and she died ten days later on March 23, only 16 months removed from the day she first sought treatment for suspected appendicitis. Now two years later, the hospital that managed her care is finally formally apologizing to her family for their fatal lapse in communication.

          http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/family-of-19-year-old-ignored-by-doctors-for-%E2%80%98googling%E2%80%99-symptoms-get-apology-for-her-death/ar-AAbNXoT

          So Tia,

          Should the doctors and staff in this incident be charged with murder or manslaughter because they ignored the patients pleas for help.  The young woman google searched her symptoms and her research indicated that the cancer had returned.  When she and her family contacted the hospital for help they were told to stop googling.  She died only ten days after they readmitted her.  Now this is a crime.  How do you defend this.  Why shouldn’t a DA charge them with murder or manslaughter and seek to imprison them.  They made mistakes in diagnosis that directly led to the death of this young woman.

          What would be the reaction of the medical community if these doctors, nurses and other staff were hauled off to jail and charged by a DA?

      3. sisterhood

        I am not Tia but I think doctors take an oath to “First, do no harm”. Maybe a cop’s oath should be “First, be humane.” Because I realize in certain situations, cops must first do harm to stop a heinous crime. But they can always be humane.

  8. sisterhood

    “You simple cannot claim that criminals actions are their own choice and then pretend that police actions are someone else’s fault.” 

    I agree w/ Tia.

  9. Tia Will

    zaqzaq

    Now this is a crime.  How do you defend this.  Why shouldn’t a DA charge them with murder or manslaughter and seek to imprison them.  They made mistakes in diagnosis that directly led to the death of this young woman.”

    First, I don’t defend it. Why are you implying that I would ? I don’t have enough information to ether condemn nor defend it. However, you are ignoring some substantial differences.

    1) If the young woman in question died only 10 days after her admission, it is quite likely that by the time she had symptoms, it was probably already too late and further medical intervention would have been unlikely to help. What we know about the Baltimore case is that the suspect was able to run prior to being in police custody, and was paralyzed and then dead after being held in custody. If intervention would not have made a difference, which is likely in your case, then the charge might potentially be negligence, but certainly not murder or manslaughter.

    2) I don’t think that we have enough of the details to know whether there was any negligence, let alone murder or manslaughter. I invariably tell my patients not to “Google” their symptoms. But I then refer them to a variety of highly reliable sources on the internet including the NIH, the Mayo, Sloan Kettering or any of a number of other highly specialized sources depending on the condition being researched. I also advise them that rather than “Googling” they should come in for an appointment so that we can best assess what our next steps should be. Do you know from your article that these alternatives were not provided? I suspect not. I suspect that the comment “stop Googling” just made a nice sound bite to imply indifference. In the Baltimore case, we have clear statements that his well being was not assessed even after he called for help.

    3)”What would be the reaction of the medical community if these doctors, nurses and other staff were hauled off to jail and charged by a DA?”

    So let’s take a more directly analogous situation. A patient presents to the ER, thus the doctor on call has a direct responsibility for this patient. The doctor for whatever reason refuses to evaluate the patient and the patient dies. The nurses and other staff knew that this was the situation but neglected to call in the back up doctor.  Now what “would be the reaction of the medical community if these doctors, nurses and other staff were hauled off to jail and charged by the DA ?”  My reaction is, and I suspect that the reaction of most doctors would be that arrest and charging in the death of this individual would be completely appropriate. I do not want doctors practicing who refuse to do their job to the absolute best of their ability, and if they act in this manner, they should be held legally responsible for their actions, not excused because they are doctors.

     

    1. zaqzaq

      Tia,

      Unlike a police officer who is making split second decisions on whether to detain and then arrest the doctors in the Bronte Doyne case ignored her pleas for help as far back as July 2012.  She was finally admitted in March 2013.  Had they done their job in July 2012 she might still be alive today.  By the time they finally acted it was to late.  The Medical Director at the hospital stated, “”We apologise that our communication with Bronte and her family fell short. We did not listen with sufficient attention.” This is a callous disregard for this young woman’s life.

      My point is that when officers are charged with a crimes based on the detention and arrest when they are wrong based on a split second decision why shouldn’t we treat doctors who allow people to die due to neglect or butcher and maim then in treatment be held to the same standard as officers Nero and Miller.  Historically both were handled with civil suits.  DA Mosby has changed the game in Baltimore when she charged those officers for the alleged illegal detention and arrest.  You and others accuse the officers in Baltimore of not doing their jobs.  In my opinion based on the facts released so far and US Supreme court rulings the officers were doing their jobs when they detained and arrested Grey.  Are you now advocating for them to continue this type of policing?  It was this type of policing that has stopped based on Mosby dictating it is illegal.  They have adapted their standards to those that she imposed upon them with her poor charging decision.  Now they are stuck with it until it is fully litigated in court.

      To bad David and DP cannot seem to figure out that the assault and the first misconduct in office for an illegal arrest arose before Grey was even placed into the paddy wagon.  Both Nero and Miller are charged with two different misconduct in office counts.  And I thought DP was supposed to be some hot shot criminal lawyer.  If he were a DA with his level of research and attention to detail I can only wonder how many prosecutorial misconduct allegations would have been made against him over his career.

       

  10. sisterhood

    “I invariably tell my patients not to “Google” their symptoms. But I then refer them to…”

    Why? Even if it’s just to read an article on WebMD while we wait until tomorrow to get into our doctor? Is it really so bad to read about mild symptoms on the internet?

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