BY TONY BOUZA
Policing in America, today, is about where medical science was in the 19th century—desperate for reform but staggering blindly under the problems. Hacksaws, in the Civil War, got plenty of mileage. Wounds got fingered and microbes ignored.
Progress came and discoveries flowed with surprising ease, right? Actually, not so much. But come they did. The expansion of human knowledge exacts a toll.
Today, America’s police are out of control. What does that mean?
It means the inmates are running the institution. Bedlam.
Mayors are unknowing, uncaring and uninterested. Except for these, everything is jake. Police chiefs are up-from-the-ranks functionaries with little appetite for taking on police unions. These organizations lurk legislative halls. Endorse allies, provide funding and other help and play the system forcefully, if not subtly. Internally, thumpers (maybe Trumpers too, it’s only one little letter away) set the tone, create the climate and shape the culture.
Thumpers’ identities are not secret. These are the alpha males with chests full of medals, elaborate chronicles of complaints of racism or other abuses and real leaders within the ranks. Actually, they are sometimes not even males these days, given the successful revolution of women in policing. Black recruitment has not been as big a hit—mostly due to the Black leadership’s labeling of the police as the enemy. Who wants to join those ranks? All, however, are blue.
Reform means fighting the union.
Policing’s parlous state and the power of the unions has driven the reformers out.
A really dramatic example of the paucity of wit or study in policing occurred in 1973. A crime earthquake occurred that was neither noted nor discussed—Roe v. Wade. It would deliver history’s biggest crime/peace dividend ever—17 years later.
Avoided as racist or irrelevant, it received no notice—criminologically.
The equation is simple—impoverished and uneducated teenage Black and Hispanic girls get pregnant and deliver babies who, born into hopeless poverty and ignorance, inevitably turn to escape like drugs and alcohol, and finance their meager lives with crime. Abort these boys and street crime plummets.
This is a view that no one dares express. There was never a shortage of police chiefs claiming credit for the sharp reductions in crime, but any reference to Roe v. Wade was toxic and avoided.
Those are the kinds of findings rigorous scholarship brings to the table. They also taught me how hopelessly irrelevant the cops were to crime’s causes and levels.
A prophet is not without honor—save in his (her?) own country.
And our prophets?
America’s foremost criminologist and police reformer is a 71-year-old guy named Lawrence W. Sherman.
Internationally famous. The genius behind endless experiments, reforms and vital ideas. Women batterers are arrested because of his work. Countries all over the world seek his help. He is at the top of his game.
So, where is he and why is this news to you (but not to America’s criminologists)?
He runs the Criminal Justice Program at Cambridge University in England.
Larry personifies America’s real interest in police innovations, reforms and progress—zilch.
New York City is currently in a heated mayoral race. Smart people involved. Not one even knows who Sherman is, or would use him if they could. He should be their choice for Police Commissioner.
This guy is the living embodiment of all that is wrong with American policing—a positive aversion to the heavy lift reform requires.
The answers are out there, only no one is asking or listening.
In the meantime, the Dance of Death plays on. And is there anyone with a soul so dead that never to themselves have said, “This is my own, my native land.”