Copyright © June 5, 2015
“And what are you prepared to do now?!” Sean Connery, Untouchables
Have you read/watched the news lately? Baltimore’s soaring homicide and violent crime rate is the worst it has experienced in 40 years. In May, there were over 100 shootings with 50 dead in the streets, mostly in the city’s gang and drug plagued Western District. Population based, Baltimore is ranked the 13th most violent city in the U.S.
For perpective, this year, New York City and Los Angeles, whose murders and violent crime rates are up 20% and 26%, respectively, did not even make the top 30. East St. Louis (IL) holds the #1 position with an incredible .86/1,000 murder rate (one murder for every 1,000 residents) which is 21 times the national average.
As the nation’s most crime plagued urban cities’ homicide and violent crime rates soar out of control, there is clear evidence that police are not proactively engaging subjects whose actions appear to be suspicious and/or criminal in nature. In past commentaries I have discussed the reasons for this.
Police are responding to the false narrative that they, as a whole, are violent racists as forwarded by street activists, a biased media and politically expedient politicians like president Obama and Rep. Charlie Rangel. In addition, Baltimore and New York City mayors, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Bill deBlasio. have thrown their own officers under the bus, playing to their inner-city constituents. Police are now using extreme discretion in citizen contacts. Many are only responding to in-progress violent crimes. This is not lost on the criminal element bent upon exploitation of the innocent.
Proactive police work, the hallmark of crime suppression, is most definitely on the wane. As this logical police mentality grows, so does the homicide and violent crime rates nationally. This is not rocket science.
Reducing crime is about implementing behavioral modification with citizens and criminals. There are two strategies in this process. One is short-term and one is long-term. I will discuss how the first strategy would work in Baltimore. However, they will work in all of the cities previously mentioned. The question is, do the city and police administrators, prosecutors, judges and citizen victims have the heroic courage to commit to the steps needed to bring about positive change?
- Cops, not politicians, reduce crime. If Mayor Rawlings-Blake does not mend the rift she has created between city government and police, that city is doomed and will never recover. Cops need to know that their city and police leaders have their back and will support them when they are doing their jobs. At present, Baltimore police have zero confidence in their mayor, police chief and police commissioner. Police won’t follow leaders they don’t trust. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the police administrators need to immediately apologize to, and demonstrate support for, their officers to begin to repair this fissure of police distrust and resentment.
- Federal, State and municipal prosecutors need to advocate for facts, evidence and justice instead of racial politics. The city needs to move away from government employees reviewing major cases and retain a more experienced, impartial and truly Independent Review Team to investigate alleged police abuse cases. The conflict of interest in using local, state, or federal investigators to forward a case and/or a biased agenda should be obvious to all. Life is not a CSI TV episode. No one gets to the truth after a 24-hour investigation of a police-involved death incident. Get real professionals to independently investigate, analyze and opine in such cases.
- As inferred, crime is behavioral. To reduce crime, you must first modify behavior. Behavior is two-fold. First, innocent citizens must be encouraged to report crimes to police. Second, police with community support, must be able to proactively deter crime by modifying the criminal mindset (behavior) of people bent upon committing crimes.
When criminals know that their actions will be reported by citizens and/or observed by anti-crime teams and they will be subsequently stopped, frisked and arrested; they move their activities out of areas they once controlled. Crime is then reduced. If criminals move to another neighborhood, police should follow to deter crime.
- City officials, citizens, and the media all need to be educated on police practices. The general public needs to be accurately informed about what police can legally do, as well as their own civil rights and legal obligations to comply with police during encounters. Even when they disagree with the reason(s) for a stop, a court room and not the street, is the appropriate venue for arguing a detention or arrest. As citizens have come to learn, resistance by flight, and/or physical assault, brings with it unintended negative consequences.
- Proactive police work to suppress crime requires serious commitment and funding for additional police manpower, resources, training and technology. Crime suppression is also an on-going process. It is never a “quick fix.” A city administration demonstrates its commitment to its police and community by funding their efforts and training their police to combat crime and to professionally engage its citizens on many levels.
Troubled cities in this nation need to have civic leaders, prosecutors, community leaders and citizens who take the time to better understand what police do, and are courageous enough to support their officers in controversial cases where evidence indicates that they acted professionally and lawfully. If they cannot commit to this mindset, then they are all doomed to ever increasing levels of violent crime, and a police force too suppressed and apprehensive to help them.
You see that without justice for all, including police officers, there really can never be true peace.
Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and police expert who directs the nation’s only civilian Forensic Death Investigations and Independent Review Team at www.martinelliandassoc.com.