This article contains editorial content by a guest writer for Law Enforcement Today.
President Biden’s plan to combat violent crime is simply bizarre. But to be perfectly honest, so are all the rest of the national anti-crime plans that preceded it.
As Joe would put it, “Folks, we don’t have a clue as to what reduces crime but people are telling me that we lost Congressional seats during the last election due to increasing crime, and they are suggesting the same will happen in the midterms unless I put out a plan.”
“No one believes it will have a chance in hades to reduce violent crime but I have to do something to provide Congressional Democrats with cover.”
Hades (the brother of Zeus) is the land of the dead, or as others would refer to it, criminology.
The plain truth is that we don’t know why crime goes up or down. We don’t have concrete evidence or research as to what we should do now. There are tons of people with impressive credentials who will insist that their way is the path to enlightenment, but they are simply guessing.
Per CNN, rising crime is putting Democrats on edge.
The Washington Post
The White House now feels it has to put out a crime plan, even though every reasonable person understands that the president’s actions have little if any effect on whether crime goes up or down. Here’s how The Post describes the situation:
Biden’s planned remarks Wednesday will put the White House at the forefront of a delicate issue that has dogged him and the Democratic Party in the past and carries potential political consequences for them.
Administration officials are eager to show that the president is attuned to the problem and taking concrete steps to reduce crime, people familiar with the plans said, the Washington Post.
Even the ultra-liberal Marshal Project proclaims, “The White House’s new crime plan demands a fact-based debate over details.”
What Not To Do
But I have suggestions as to what not to do. Stop demonizing all cops. Stop giving criminals cover.
It’s correct to suggest that there isn’t a lot of hard data indicating what police officers and agencies should do to reduce crime. But as a former criminology professor once stated, “Doubts about the effectiveness of law enforcement exist but if you want to see the power of policing, remove them and see what happens.”
We have effectively eliminated law enforcement in cities throughout the country through endless harsh criticism of a million cops (sworn and civilian).
Yep, officers made mistakes leading to a national and international movement and yes, some of the harsh publicity was deserved. But if you are willing to judge one million people based on the actions of a few, you are capable of any “ism.”
There is polling data indicating that many if not most Americans want change in police tactics. They want perceived inequities and misuse of force stopped.
But when the conversation leads to overwhelming condemnation of “all” cops, the result is that police officers leave the job (per endless media reports) and a sixty-three percent reduction in recruitment per the Police Executive Research Forum.
“A survey of almost 200 police departments suggests that retirements and resignations among officers are way up since April 2020. Several officers in Asheville, North Carolina told the New York Times that anti-police scorn from friends and neighbors pushed them from the profession into less politically contentious work,” The New York Times.
What’s worse, the remaining police officers in cities are no longer being appropriately proactive and proactivity is probably the only modality with a research base as to reducing crime, Proactive Policing.
Proactive policing prompts officers to take action (i.e., a person with a history of violence suspected of carrying a gun) when they have a legal right to investigate. But proactivity requires enormous risks and is the center of many complaints against law enforcement. Many if not most big-city cops don’t want to end up on the front cover of the local paper if proactivity goes wrong.
Data states that (72%) of officers are less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, Pew.
So we are dealing with a phenomenon that is tearing apart cities, destroying any chance for economic recovery, and resulting in tens of thousands of deaths of mostly minority victims since violent crime increased in 2015.
We’ve also told criminal offenders that cops are now denuded and penalties are fewer via discussions as to eliminating cash bail, lesser terms of parole and probation, and reduced or no jail-prison time, Sending The Wrong Messages.
Thus advocates and others are giving a virtual green light as to massive increases in violence.
Joe wants to hire more cops. Good luck with that when officers are bailing.
Joe wants to attack guns. There are anywhere between 300-400 million firearms in this country. We could outlaw the possession of all firearms (yes, a tad unconstitutional) and it would take several lifetimes before it would have an impact.
Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the vast majority of violent crime does not involve firearms and the vast majority of the remainder involves handguns. A focus on assault weapons won’t have the desired impact.
Comprehensive background checks might provide some relief while noting that criminals ordinarily don’t go through those channels to acquire their guns.
Joe wants to employ violence interrupters at hospitals and the streets and where I believe that it’s worth trying, there is next to nothing per the literature that these interventions work, see the Department of Justice’s Crime Solutions.Gov.
Joe wants to use social and work programs and where I believe that it’s worth trying, there is next to nothing per the literature that these interventions work, see the Department of Justice’s Crime Solutions.Gov.
See an overview at NPR.
So The President’s Plan is Dysfunctional?
Yep, because it’s grounded in the reality that the data simply doesn’t support it.
But as I said, there’s little research to support any anti-crime endeavor. The US Department of Justice’s research agenda and endless criminological papers don’t provide us with an answer. The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement And The Administration of Justice in the 1960s promised us data-driven guidance. That, quite simply, never materialized.
So we are stuck with advocacy and there will be endless “progressives” who will insist that cops are dysfunctional and that an attack on guns and increased social programs will fix the problem.
In the meantime, cities and their citizens die.
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So Joe’s The Problem?
No. President Biden has to do something about rising crime. Unfortunately, the data’s simply not there.
We have a 28 percent in violence since 2015. Serious violence is increasing via the National Crime Victimization Survey from the Department of Justice. Gallup reports a tripling of violence. Fear of crime is at an all-time high. Purchases of guns and security devices are going through the roof. The FBI records a significant increase in homicides and other forms of violence in 2020, US Crime Rates.
It’s not the aftermath of COVID. Violent crime has been rising since 2015.
I’m not going to bash Biden and Democrats because a Republican president would find the same set of circumstances.
Some criticize Democratic big-city mayors but if they would all be replaced with Republicans, I doubt they could do any better (with the possible exceptions of New York City and Chicago and their cop-bashing executives).
Per the Department of Justice, the great majority of criminal offenders have histories of mental health concerns, substance abuse and severe medical issues that will remain regardless of who is running the show.
And yes, law enforcement has concerns regarding disparities, training and compensation that need addressing. Cops are here to serve all Americans equally, regardless of who they are. We in the justice system have to do better.
But going to war with all cops is dysfunctional in the extreme. Law enforcement remains one of the most respected institutions in the country, regardless of demographics.
When adding all three categories, a great deal of confidence, quite a lot, and some, 81 percent of the public expressed a level of confidence in law enforcement per Gallup.
Stop bashing all cops. The vast majority of officers are good and decent people per Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden and countless others.
Pay police officers what they deserve. Train them exceptionally well. Praise them when things go well. I don’t know of anyone else willing to be in high crime communities risking their lives for complete strangers.
If proactivity is the only modality that works per data, we have to figure out the degree of proactivity and what’s appropriate to bring down crime. At the moment, citizens are going to have to accept the fact that proactive officers are their only hope for surviving violence. Like any social effort, risk and mistakes are inevitable.
Stop giving the message that criminal offenders will not be held accountable for their actions. Criminals prey on the weak and disabled. They are not nice people. If you believe in justice for women, the disabled, the poor, Asian Americans and minorities, those who hurt or destroy them need to pay a price.
Economic recovery in cities won’t progress as long as violence is out of control. There are endless media accounts of businesses closing because of crime. Prosecutors telling everyone that they won’t charge people for “minor” crimes is simply dysfunctional. Destroying local economies and jobs is not social progress.
Yes, I know plenty of former offenders who are currently doing well. We need to do what we can to make it as productive as possible so those trying to escape criminal lifestyles are successful (part of the President’s plan). Unfortunately, per the research on criminal recidivism, we are failing. The majority return to crime, Recidivism.
We need to quadruple the research budget for the Department of Justice. We need to solve criminological issues that should have been settled decades ago. Maybe violence interrupters work; the data is limited.
We need accountability from all citizens. Criminology makes it clear that the justice system doesn’t control crime nearly as well as decent behavior. Cops on patrol won’t stop you from beating your wife or your acquaintance down the street or buying stolen goods or engaging in any nefarious activity. Somehow, we have let good behavior escape us.
Until the research shows us a better way, dependence on law enforcement and accountability for people who create enormous harm will have to return.
Beyond that, it’s all smoke and mirrors.
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