American Elephants


Crime is Surging, Activists Should Be Careful What They Wish For. by The Elephant's Child

ows_140641963894859“Everett D. Mitchell is the Director of Community Relations at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  He is also an attorney, pastor and community leader.”

At a recent panel discussion, addressing policing practices, Mr. Mitchell said that police should stop prosecuting individuals who shoplift from Wal-Mart and Target.

He simply believes that police have no justification to arrest thieves who steal from Wal-Mart or Target—because they are big box stores with insurance.

“I just don’t think they should be prosecuting cases for people who steal from Wal-Mart. I don’t think that. I don’t think that Target, and all them other places – the big boxes that have insurance – they shouldn’t be using the people that steal from there as justification to start engaging in aggressive police behavior.”

He began his speech advocating for legal relativism, the notion that communities should decide for themselves which laws should be enforced and which laws should not, in order to better recognize what safety means for that specific community.

There are some poor neighborhoods that are largely black, where drugs and crime are a major problem. Drug use and drug sales bring more crime, and gangs. High crime can foster drug use. Single parents have a harder time of bringing up kids and keeping them out of trouble. If one lives in such a neighborhood, and friends’ brothers or husbands are in jail, friends have gone to prison—it would be easy to assume that it was aggressive police behavior, not misbehavior by your friends or relatives.

In the wake of the Ferguson riots, the “hands up, don’t shoot”cry of activists gradually died out when it became clear that wasn’t even true. The new slogan became “Black Lives Matter,” which is having a poisonous effect on the very neighborhoods where the protests are taking place.

Police become afraid of arresting a suspect if they will be accused of racism or improper policing. Contrary to Mr. Mitchell’s views, stealing from Wal-Mart is against the law just as much as stealing from a bank. But if smaller crimes are not dealt with, criminal behavior increases.

Rudy Giuliani cleaned up a dangerous and crime-ridden New York City by adhering to what is called the “Broken Windows Theory.” If a parked car has broken windows and they are not repaired, it will soon be stripped because it is assumed that it is abandoned and nobody cares. Ditto buildings. When police cracked down on the small stuff, the squeegee men, the litter, and the disorder, with walking neighborhood patrols, people felt safer and things improved, even if the crime rate didn’t immediately drop.

The temptation is to assume that police are the problem, and if they can just get rid of the police and policing they will be safer. All police are not perfect, but they take on what is often a dangerous job of protecting the citizens in their jurisdiction. If police are badly treated,  their orders ignored, or if police are attacked, the activists may get what they want, and quickly come to regret what they have lost. Police are only human, and way too many are killed in the line of duty.


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