Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Community Policing

There are many reasons police today have trouble performing their duties and investigating real crimes. Distrust in certain communities is a major factor. The way departments are structured is another. I believe the creation of new crimes by politicians who have no real world understanding of what their legislation will do is the greatest.

I believe there are many members of department command staffs across America trying in good faith to establish positive relationships with citizens. Community policing is a wonderful idea but it misses the point of exactly what it should be. Neighborhoods being policed by local residents who just happen to be sworn officers with real authority. This ensures those patrolling have a vested interest in the safety of that area. There was a time when an officer was required to live in the municipality in which they served. Many of these policies have been relaxed or tossed out completely for fear of losing the best talent. That may be a noble reason, but I would rather have a competent officer who lives down the street, than one who is the department's shining star but lives in the bordering city or county. A multitude of problems would be reduced in this scenario. An officer who knows everyone in the neighborhood by face if not by name is less likely to fear for his or her safety in a seemingly tense situation. That officer would have far more success obtaining information from fellow residents when a crime is committed. They would probably lose sleep when a violent or property crime goes unsolved for even a night.

The centralized structure of many major departments may make these things infeasible at the moment, but it is desperately needed in order to build neighborhood solidarity which would in turn lead to citizens being more willing to report crimes and give information because they would not feel alone.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thoughts on the NAACP National Conference

I was very happy to see that drug policy reform issues were given time at the Conference. Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, spoke intelligently and passionately on the topic.

I have been a supporter of the Alliance for years and was a long time financial contributor. While I am happy that Ethan said what he said and the audience appeared to be very interested, I sincerely wish it had been a black person making the statements. As anyone with a good familiarity with the reform movement can attest, black faces are sorely missing on an issue that overwhelmingly effects us more than any other race. I was fortunate to be able to see that drug law enforcement has a far more negative impact on our communities than drug abuse. This is not an easy realization to arrive at when you are forced to deal with the violence associated with territory disputes on a daily basis. In many black communities it is more tolerable to be a non-prohibition related murderer than it is a drug dealer.

When Barack Obama had his opportunity to speak, he spoke about families raising their children properly. He spoke of the impact his Mother had on him. Interestingly he chose not discuss how his life would have changed dramatically if he had been arrested once while experimenting with cocaine and cannabis. While there are many people who view drug addicts and abusers as lazy and incompetent among other things, they ignore a simple reality. Many of these individuals hold intensely difficult occupations. A clear example of this was stockbrokers and others in high finance that had a cocaine problem. These are not the kinds of jobs that can be obtained or maintained with a criminal record, regardless of ability. There are many functioning alcoholics who hold jobs and perform well. They are blessed to not have worry about losing their livelihood simply because they had alcohol in their possession.

There are many habits than can have an adverse effect on one's life. Drug use in moderation is the only one that totally alters the direction of your life based on nothing to do with chemical properties.