I’ll confess something right at the beginning. When I see a police car in the rearview mirror, I feel a certain unease. Not hatred, not fear, just a general “Oh crud! Why is he following my car today?” I don’t believe anyone unconditionally loves a police officer who hasn’t married or given birth to one. Some well-informed and intelligent observers (David Simon for example) argue that corrupt policing is becoming an absolute plague on society. But do we really want to wish they were all gone?
Let’s even assume that Simon is correct in speculating that police behavior in Baltimore, Maryland has heightened tensions and weakened social cohesion. Thomas Hobbes gives us one theory of what life would be like in a Pork-free, Libertarian Urbatopia. In his famous text The Leviathan he wrote the following:
“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.*”
Now before we just accept some opinion from a guy who wrote an old book that a lot of us Google first and then read never; we need to do some research to see if said quote actually meets reality. Recent events in Baltimore, Maryland suggest that public outrage at police tactics being employed have led to there being less police activity. Since 12 April 2015 when Freddie Grey died in police custody, 51 more people have been murdered in Baltimore. This is during the period until 1 June 2015. That is 51 homicides in 50 days. Rounding down gives us 372 murders in a 365-day period.
According to Jack Dunphy,** the LAPD is policing less vigorously and people are getting shot more frequently in the street.
Shootings in the city are up by 23 percent and other violent crimes are up by 25 percent. LAPD arrests for violent crimes, this year are down by 13 percent. And in some parts of L.A. the picture is bleaker than in others. Shooting incidents are up significantly across heavily black and Latino South-Central L.A. In Newton Division, for example, one of the city’s 21 patrol areas, homicides are up by 42 percent, and the number of shooting incidents and shooting victims have both doubled from last year.
So how does this unspoken police strike work? Quite simple. The police show up, but just aren’t really going all out in certain situations. During a similar spate of “concern” over-aggressive policing, an officer in Prince Georges County, Maryland wrote to Fred Reed the following:
“Fred — After having read your article on 11/20/00 I have to state that YES!! We on the P.G.P.D for the most part are now looking the other way. After almost [deleted] years on the job I find this disheartening but a necessary fact to survive in today’s, what appears to most officers, an ANTI-POLICE environment. We are even being told by some supervisors to keep a low profile so “you’re not next on the front page”! I became a police officer to help people [deleted] years ago in P.G. County . . . but I now share the attitude of most officers, just let them eat each other, we have to survive.
So what happens when police officers care more about “not being next on the front page” than they do about saving Gotham City? Perhaps Lord of The Flies was too TL;DR. The video below could explain it just as well. This is what our cities will increasingly become like if we issue blanket condemnations of all of our police forces.
*-“…solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short..” One of my ex’s said that about me once….
**-An LAPD veteran who writes articles about policing under a pseudonym.