The Politics of Community Policing: The Case of Seattle (Current Issues in Criminal Justice)

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It is not unusual for witnesses, and even victims, to a crime to refuse to testify or cooperate because they believe that the system will abandon them when a case is over. Also, the populations in even the most disadvantaged sections of cities are very heterogeneous with respect to views of police and criminal justice agencies and institutions. Nothing could be further from the truth. That movement is calling for effective and accountable policing.

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So when serious criminals—those who victimize and terrorize black and brown communities—are arrested, convicted, and imprisoned, there are multiple responses in the places where they lived and, more often than not, engaged in their predatory behavior. As is the case for every community, when criminals are removed from socially and economically disadvantaged African American and Latino communities, there is a benefit to those places.

Not only is a person who would victimize others not able to do so, but crime, especially high levels of crime, are bad for the collective good of communities.


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Crime can destabilize neighborhoods. When people live in fear of personal or property victimization, they view their environment as a threatening, scary place. Such spaces do not promote the kind of cohesion and closeness among neighbors that is important for healthy and productive social engagement. When residential areas, and even commercial districts, are cohesive and individuals are engaged with each other, people can participate in the kinds of social life that make crime less likely.

So, too much crime actually increases the likelihood of more crime. What some criminologists fear is that going too far in the opposite direction—with the criminal justice system removing too many residents from a neighborhood—potentially causes two separate but related types of problems. With incarceration there is collateral damage to those locked up, as well as to those who they are connected to: partners, children, extended family, and any positive friendship networks they had.

Also, and perhaps less obvious, removing too many people from a troubled neighborhood can have a detrimental, crime-causing effect. The overwhelming majority of inmates will be released from prison after serving their sentences, and the nation has struggled with how to help them reenter society. Generally, released prisoners must return to the county where they last lived, which, for most, means returning to a poor and socially isolated inner-city neighborhood or community.

The unprecedented numbers now being released have compounded the problem. Many prisoners entered the system with drug, alcohol, or mental problems. In the vast majority of instances, they received little or no treatment or counseling during their incarceration because of reduced funding for rehabilitation programs as well as the closing or scaling back of state mental facilities. Prisons, and even jails, have become the dumping grounds of necessity for those who have mental health issues.

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On another level, general health care within prisons, including mental health care, has been woefully inadequate, resulting in a number of lawsuits against both federal and state corrections systems. Unfortunately, this means that prisoners released back into their old communities return no better off—or, in many instances, worse off—than they were before being incarcerated. In addition, released prisoners face collateral consequences that they were largely unaware of at the time they were originally sentenced.

Collateral consequences to the imprisoned are the effects that remain after the formal sentence has been served. These damages are inflicted by law and by social practice. Among the former, some of the more onerous consequences are the legal denial of some social benefits—public housing access, welfare benefits, some college loans and grants, the right to vote, the right to live or work in certain places school zones for some offenders , and requirements to register with local authorities. In addition to legally specified collateral consequences of felony convictions and in some jurisdictions some misdemeanor convictions , there are informal consequences as well.

Those who are convicted frequently lose intimate relationships with partners or access to their children, and they are less likely to find employment. There are also collateral damages to the families of those imprisoned, both while they are locked up and when they are released. Since families are a good anchor for prisoners when they are released, disruptions in family life increase the chances of recidivism. Another study comparing neighborhoods with high and low rates of incarceration, found that in the former, the gender ratio is sufficiently thrown off by the number of men going into and coming out of prison that marriage markets are negatively affected.

Such circumstances create fertile ground for crime to occur and perhaps flourish. To be clear, this does not mean that migrants bring crime with them. In fact, the evidence has long suggested that movers have less of the characteristics that are predictive of criminal behavior. The problem is the lack of social integration.

CRC Press Online - Series: Current Issues in Criminal Justice

Similarly, when communities lose too large of a segment of their population, this same important, crime-inhibiting social integration can be disrupted. It is important to remember that even people who break the law occupy many different roles. They are husbands or wives or girlfriends or boyfriends, sons, daughters, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Families and the neighborhoods in which they reside struggle to fill the void when members are no longer there.

The removal of too many people from communities can be disruptive. The nation has seen this in recent years when sections of formerly industrial capitals, such as Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh, have lost population as people left in search of jobs. Some criminologists believe that when people from a community are imprisoned at a high enough number—coercive mobility—the effect may also be criminogenic. So there are two countervailing forces or arguments: that removing problem criminal people improves the life of neighborhoods, and that removing too many people and then returning them can be criminogenic.

The two most prominent researchers who have made the case regarding coercive mobility and its deleterious effects are Dina Rose and Todd Clear. They believe that there is a tipping point, below which imprisonment is normally good for a community, but above which it becomes criminogenic. This effect, coercive mobility leading to crime, is not thought to happen everywhere, but in severely socially and economically disadvantaged places. This is, in part, because a large amount of serious crime occurs there, but also because such places have very limited resources and do not have the collective resiliency to overcome high levels of imprisonment and large numbers of released men and women returning to the same problematic neighborhoods from which they came, or ones very much like them.

An important way to address the problems for communities of color is to reduce the residential racial and economic segregation that continues to cause problems for social life in the U. It is generally accepted that having a good, solid family life lowers the probability of a person becoming involved in crime, and that having employment especially good employment does the same. Predictably, those most likely to be sentenced to a term in prison are less likely than others of their age, race, and gender to be involved in a stable relationship or to have been employed in a high-quality job prior to their incarceration.

When men and women return from prison, their family life has an even higher likelihood of having been disrupted, and their competitiveness on the job market is even more diminished than it was before they were incarcerated.

Time in prison means that these already marginal people are more marginalized, and they tend to return to living in neighborhoods that are already distressed by the presence of too many disrupted families and high levels of joblessness. Which brings things back to the coercive mobility argument, as it may be critically important.

As a consequence, the National Research Council NRC committee charged with studying the causes and consequences of high rates of imprisonment took some time to evaluate the evidence for and against this thesis. The evidence is not conclusive, but it is suggestive. As observed in cities across the country, incarceration is very concentrated geographically.

In addition, the evidence indicates that, indeed, the places that released prisoners return to are just as geographically concentrated in other ways, as shown by comparison of the racial and ethnic composition of high-incarceration neighborhoods with the rest of the city, and the poverty rates for these communities and the city as a whole. The areas of concentrated incarceration are in predominately minority districts.

This is the case in cities throughout the United States. The committee also found strong evidence that these places are among the most economically and socially disadvantaged sections of U. Thus, there is little doubt about this portion of the argument: prisoners come from and return to a narrow group of neighborhoods, very disadvantaged ones. Two other aspects of the coercive mobility argument are less clear. First, there is some evidence that this concentration pattern is criminogenic, but other researchers have not found evidence that this pattern increases crime above and beyond what would generally be expected for similar neighborhoods.

Some additional research has also provided support. Second, critical to this notion is that there is a tipping point below which incarceration benefits communities, but above which high levels of coercive mobility increases crime rates. The research evidence does indicate that there is a nonlinear relationship between imprisonment and crime, which suggests that there is such a tipping point, but criminologists to date have not been able to settle on where that tipping point is.

After considering the evidence, the NRC committee concluded that it did not allow for affirmation that high levels of imprisonment cause crime in these neighborhoods. Interestingly, the committee reported that an analytically major problem for examining this thesis is that it is too hard—indeed, virtually impossible—to find enough white neighborhoods with the same levels of either imprisonment or disadvantage that exists routinely in many African American communities in nearly every major American city to allow for meaningful analysis.

Cities in the United States are still far too racially segregated to make the analytic comparisons that are necessary, and the minority neighborhoods are where the disadvantaged are concentrated and from where prisoners are disproportionally drawn. So, although the committee could not affirm that high levels of incarceration increases crime in disadvantaged minority neighborhoods, it did find that the quantitative evidence is suggestive of that pattern.

And a number of ethnographers—who have been spending time in these communities and watching how families, friendship networks, and communities are faring—are adding additional evidence that indicates that high levels of imprisonment, concentrated in disadvantaged communities of color, are indeed criminogenic. Researchers are increasingly finding that both the collateral consequences of imprisonment, and living in communities from which many of the imprisoned come from and return to, do have detrimental effects.

And these effects are visited upon the reentering individual, on their families, and on the communities at large. It has been well established that men, whether or not they have been to prison, are less likely to be involved in crime if they are in stable intimate relationships, employed gainfully, and living in decent housing. And for those returning from prison, those who establish these life patterns are more likely to have successful reentry to their communities. Importantly, a large proportion of men being released from prison hopes to and expects to live with their children.


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  • But families and children are negatively affected when parents go into prison, as well as when they return. Unfortunately, in places characterized by high levels of incarceration, there are additional challenges. Studies of the effects of high incarceration rates in neighborhoods in Oakland have found that important institutions—families and schools, as well as businesses and criminal justice personnel, such as police and parole officers—have become reconfigured to focus on marginalized young boys, increasing the chances that they become more marginalized and involved in crime.

    The police said that MOVE members fired at them; a gunfight with semi-automatic and automatic firearms ensued. Commissioner Sambor ordered that the compound be bombed. Frank Powell proceeded to drop two one-pound bombs which the police referred to as "entry devices" made of FBI-supplied water gel explosive , a dynamite substitute, targeting a fortified, bunker-like cubicle on the roof of the house. The resulting explosions ignited a fire which spread and eventually destroyed approximately 65 nearby houses. Marshal William Francis Degan.

    The Task Force report was released in redacted form by Lexis Counsel Connect and raised questions about the conduct and policy of all the agencies. Public outcry over Ruby Ridge led to the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information holding 14 days of hearings and issuing a report calling for reforms in federal law enforcement to prevent a repeat of Ruby Ridge and to restore public confidence in federal law enforcement.

    In , the Maryland State Police MSP began entering the names and personal information of death penalty opponents and anti-war protesters into a database used to track terrorists. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in , employees of the private security firm Blackwater patrolled the city with automatic weapons.

    In February , the Minneapolis Police Department MPD raided the apartment of Rickia Russell, breaching the door and throwing in a flashbang grenade , as part of a search for drugs. At the time, Russell was eating dinner with her boyfriend and the exploding grenade gave her burns to her head and calves. In May , the Pima County Sheriff's department killed Marine and Iraq war veteran Jose Guerena , when they entered his home while serving a search warrant related to a marijuana smuggling investigation.

    They fired 71 shots into his home, while his wife and 4-year-old child were inside, and found no drugs nor anything illegal. Referring to the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City , Glen Greenwald wrote, "The police response was so excessive, and so clearly modeled after battlefield tactics, that there was no doubt that deterring domestic dissent is one of the primary aims of police militarization.

    The grenade landed in the playpen of a month-old baby boy, and the detonation severely burned and mutilated the baby's face. In late , concerns about the militarization of police arose after the shooting of Michael Brown occurred on August 9 , , in Ferguson, Missouri , a suburb of St. The display of military gear by area police agencies dealing with the protests received significant criticism from the media and politicians.

    There were concerns over insensitivity, tactics and a militarized response. The drift toward militarization concerns police officers and police policy analysts themselves. Police academy education patterned after a military boot camp, military-type battle dress uniforms and black color by itself may produce aggression, as do the missions named wars on crime, on drugs, and on terrorism. Bickel wrote that accelerating militarization was likely to alienate police relationship with the community, and pointed to a variety of factors that contribute to militarization, including the growth of SWAT; the increase prevalence of dark-colored military-style battle dress uniforms for patrol officers which research suggests has a psychological effect of increasing aggression in the wearer , and "warrior-like" stress training in policing training, which fosters an "us versus them" approach.

    A report by The Marshall Project looking at data from the early s investigated the mindset of "guardian" versus "warrior" by calculating the rate of complaints for excessive use of force against police officers who had served in the military versus police officers in general. The ACLU has stated that local police use these "wartime weapons in everyday policing, especially to fight the wasteful and failed drug war, which has unfairly targeted people of color. Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper published an essay arguing that the current epidemic of police brutality is a reflection of the militarization Chuck Canterbury, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, argued that the equipment received from the federal government had been properly de-militarized, and that it was being used to protect civilians from violent crime.

    He further stated that the use of the equipment by law enforcement was necessary to protect civilians, since mass shootings have taken place across the United States, even in small towns.

    The Problems With Policing the Police | TIME

    Responding to claims that law enforcement officers were being given tanks, Canterbury argued that the vehicles being used by law enforcement were not armed, and that they were being used across the United States to protect other officers. On March 23, , a Department of Justice investigation into use of deadly force by the Philadelphia Police Department in the period from found that the way officers are trained may be a contributing factor to excessive use of deadly force.

    In a January report Cato Institute criminal justice policy analyst Adam Bates argues that in the United States, "an increasingly militarized domestic police force" is characterized by " mission creep [that] has not been limited to weapons and tactics. What the War on Drugs has done for police militarization, the War on Terror is now doing for police intelligence gathering, and the privacy of millions of Americans is at risk.

    The American Civil Liberties Union has raised concerns about military involvement in surveillance of peaceful protesters. The federal Posse Comitatus Act of forbids the U. Air Force officer Charles J. Dunlap, Jr. Under this view, "a successful policization of the armed forces may well render it incapable of defeating authentic external military threats.

    The accelerating militarization of regular law enforcement during the War on Drugs and post- September 11 War on Terror , however, prompted some commentators to express alarm at the blurring of the distinction between civil and military functions, and the potential to erode constraints on governmental power in times of perceived crisis. If this convergence results in the police adopting not only military-type tactics and procedures but also military attitudes and orientations, the convergence may seriously threaten traditional civil rights and liberties.

    Kraska states that: "When people refer to the militarization of police, it's not in a pejorative or judgmental sense. Contemporary police agencies have moved significantly along a continuum culturally, materially, operationally, while using a Navy SEALs model. All of those are clear indications that they're moving away from a civilian model of policing.

    The use of SWAT teams became especially common for drug searches. The Chicago Police Department CPD have been accused of operating a secret " black site " in Homan Square where suspects were held without being booked and registered and where they could not be found by their attorneys or families. Suspects were allegedly shackled and beaten. From to , the United States Department of Justice DOJ has gone to court to challenge policing practices in more than 24 cities in order to protect the civil rights of the public.

    The Obama administration made a broad push police reform. First created in the s for riot control or violent confrontations with criminals , the number and usage of SWAT teams increased in the s and s during the War on Drugs , and in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. SWAT teams are increasingly equipped with military-type hardware and are trained to deploy against threats of terrorism , for crowd control , and in situations beyond the capabilities of ordinary law enforcement, sometimes deemed "high-risk.

    SWAT units are often equipped with specialized firearms including submachine guns , assault rifles , breaching shotguns , sniper rifles , riot control agents , and stun grenades. They have specialized equipment including heavy body armor, ballistic shields, entry tools, armored vehicles, advanced night vision optics, and motion detectors for covertly determining the positions of hostages or hostage takers, inside enclosed structures.

    The increased use of SWAT teams is a hallmark of increased police militarization. SWAT teams being used for gambling crackdowns and serving a search warrant are routine in some places, like Fairfax, VA. In , a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff's deputies raided several barbershops, holding barbers and customers at gunpoint while they turned the shops inside out.


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      The ACLU has stated that " Law enforcement snipers , commonly called police snipers, and military snipers differ in many ways, including their areas of operation and tactics. A police sharpshooter is part of a police operation and usually takes part in relatively short missions. Police forces typically deploy such sharpshooters in hostage scenarios. This differs from a military sniper, who operates as part of a larger army, engaged in warfare.

      Sometimes as part of a SWAT team, police snipers are deployed alongside negotiators and an assault team trained for close quarters combat. As policemen, they are trained to shoot only as a last resort, when there is a direct threat to life; the police sharpshooter has a well-known rule: "Be prepared to take a life to save a life.

      Both types of snipers do make difficult shots under pressure, and often perform one-shot kills. Police units that are unequipped for tactical operations may rely on a specialized SWAT team, which may have a dedicated sniper. Police snipers placed in vantage points, such as high buildings, can provide security for events. The need for specialized training for police sharpshooters was made apparent in during the Munich massacre when the German police could not deploy specialized personnel or equipment during the standoff at the airport in the closing phase of the crisis, and consequently all of the Israeli hostages were killed.

      While the German army did have snipers in , the use of snipers of the German army in the scenario was impossible due to the German constitution 's explicit prohibition of the use of the military in domestic matters. This lack of police trained snipers was later addressed with the founding of the specialized police counter-terrorist unit GSG 9 , which subsequently became a widely copied model for a police special forces unit.

      In September , a San Bernardino Sheriff's Department sniper shot a suspect in a fast-moving car from a helicopter. The suspect leapt from his car and died on the side of the road, but his vehicle continued forward, striking another vehicle and critically injuring three civilians. They got into a car and began to drive away. Larsen testified that it was then he called out for them to stop and identified himself as a police officer. When the car kept going, he claimed he shot five times aiming at the rear tires.

      Junell said Larsen was closer. Officer Marion, who was on-duty at the time, testified that his nightstick was in the hand he uses for shooting and Larsen was standing in front of him anyway. Because of the great degree of conflicting testimony, some people questioned whether any of the evidence was conclusive enough to lead to any jury decision. But on June 30th, the jury gave their verdict, deciding that the cops had been drinking but were not so intoxicated as to impair their judgment.

      They also found that the officers had been assaulted and the officers had used offensive language first. Lastly, they decided that Larsen did identify himself before shooting. Since some testimony suggested the officers may have failed to identify themselves when they had the chance, or that they were drunk and had provoked the altercation, it hardly seemed like justice. He did charge Officer Junell with provoking an assault. But he saved his harshest punishment for the four black men involved in the fight— James Williams, Osborne Moore, Weldon Boyland, and Leroy Head— each of whom he charged with third degree assault.

      Officer Junell was found innocent while the others were all found guilty and sentenced to serve 90 days in prison.

      The Politics of Community Policing: The Case of Seattle (Current Issues in Criminal Justice)

      This appeared to support the belief that the police department and other city officials were trying to cover up misconduct and protect the officers. The Prosecutor did not see this as reason to prosecute the officers, and said the witnesses would not have changed the outcome of the inquest or the trial of the four black men since their testimony did not add any new information.

      Police Chief Ramon, while not acknowledging any wrongdoing by his officers, did mildly reprimand Larsen and Junell. Acting as chief of police while Ramon was out of town during the inquest, Assistant Police Chief Rouse suspended both officers. However, the suspension was for only eight days and become another example to the black community of how the two officers were getting off easy.

      This suggested that he may have been aware of what really happened that night and perhaps community pressure was not the only reason for extending the suspension of the two officers. In addition to suspending the officers involved and reminding the force of their non-discrimination policy, Chief Ramon also made changes to the police department policies. Many people in the community cried out that it was irresponsible for officers to carry weapons while drinking and that the combination of the two led to the death of Reese when it might otherwise have been simply a brawl.

      Because policemen were considered on-duty at all times, they carried their weapon even when officially off-duty so that there were more officers out enforcing the law or protecting the public. Although Ramon claimed that the policy was already under review and would have been revised soon anyways, it was less than three weeks after the shooting on July 10th when he officially changed the policy.


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