Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It Takes a Lot of Idiots to Raze a Village

Community policing of poor minority neighborhoods is a popular topic in the wake of the Baltimore riots.

The Gangs of Ferguson

About the only positive coming out of the Ferguson, Missouri saga was the unmasking of a criminal enterprise that preyed upon poor people. It was run by the government of Ferguson, who thought it would be a grand idea to fund the municipality by hounding its citizens, entangling them in a kangaroo court system, imposing outrageously ballooning fines and vacuuming all the money from their pockets.

I am all for getting the government off of our backs, and so I sympathize with the argument that we need to eliminate ratcheting fines, court-mandated counseling and serial court dates over minor administrative matters and petty crimes.

Bureaucratic Dragnets

Is there any evidence that ensnaring people in a bureaucracy of dismal offices, social worker supervision, and five minute court appearances deters crimes or leaves those who have been sucked into the government maw any better off?

Many people swept up in the system for minor infraction are people who, as my defense attorney friend says, "can't get their shit together." Their "life skills" suck. They are only marginally employable, and they forget to pay fines, don't write down court dates on a calendar or planner, and they usually must pay for court supervision and mandatory counseling that can drag on for months. Every misstep is another crime, and someone initially sucked in for a traffic infraction or getting drunk may never escape.

So what do we do?

Decriminalize drug use and other petty crimes?

Advocates say hounding people over minor infractions is a waste of government resources, and the police need to be freed up to focus on bigger issues.

The pathology will still remain

That's the problem. Drug use, now legit, will still require dealers prowling around, and cash to pay for users' habits. This leads to bigger criminality.

So, the next question should be, how do we equip communities to police themselves?

Can we talk about social pathologies as we dismantle structural racism and hidden color barriers? Can we agree that such pathologies, poor lifestyle choices and bad behaviors plague all races, and that it is not racist to introduce these additional factors into the conversation?

This is a multi-faceted, multi-layered puzzle and there are no magic bullets.  Just as it takes many idiots to wreck a village, it takes many solutions carried out by many people to restore some societal sanity.


Black Voices Matter
Inmates Running the Asylum

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