The left wants it both ways on policing

Heather Mac Donald has an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal called “Explaining Away the New Crime Wave.” It’s a response to the left’s frantic efforts to avoid the obvious inference that the spike in crime many cities are experiencing results in part from the growing reluctance of cops to engage in proactive policing.

Mac Donald’s article is worth reading in full, if you can penetrate the Journal’s pay wall. I want to focus on this comment:

Many residents of high-crime areas don’t look at proactive and public-order enforcement the way their alleged advocates do. In a recent Quinnipiac poll of New York City voters, 61% of black respondents said they wanted the police to actively enforce quality-of-life laws in their neighborhood, compared with 59% of white voters.

Baltimore provides another great example. Recently, I noted that, weeks before Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby directed Baltimore police to ramp up narcotics patrols with increased “targeting” at an intersection near where Gray was arrested.

Mosby, a political creature herself, is married to a Baltimore city council member who represents this area. It is safe to assume that she directed the police to ramp up narcotics patrols in response to complaints from residents. Mosby heard their demand to get the thugs and the crack heads off the street.

After Gray’s death, a new rallying cry — “no justice, no peace” — took political precedence. In announcing the prosecution of six police officers, Mosby made a point of saying that she had heard this cry.

Now, as the “no justice, no peace” movement wanted, the Baltimore police force has cut way back on proactive policing. And murder and violent crime have skyrocketed. It won’t be long before “get the thugs and crack heads off my street” returns to its rightful place as the collective mantra of poor inner-city residents. Perhaps it already has.

As for activists and MSM liberals, they want it both ways. Mac Donald cites the Washington Post’s Radley Balko, who complains that the police are “too afraid or spiteful to do their jobs.” Charles Blow of the New York Times takes the same line.

The criticism has some validity if you agree that aggressive, proactive patrolling of high crime areas — including questioning and if necessary chasing and detaining those who, like Freddie Gray, appear to be trafficking in narcotics — is part of a police officer’s proper job.

But the left doesn’t concede this. Instead, as Mac Donald observes, people like Charles Blow denounce the police for proactively enforcing the law, and then accuse them of a “dereliction of duty” when they decrease such enforcement.

Mac Donald concludes:

Activists and many criminologists may continue to deny the importance of proactive policing, even as shootings increase, but its effectiveness was central to America’s remarkable crime reduction of the past two decades. Police departments must constantly reinforce the message of courtesy and respect, and train officers to minimize the use of force.

But when the police back off, crime eventually goes up. If anti-cop vituperation tapers off in the coming months and police start to feel supported in their work, the recent crime increases may also taper off.

If the media-saturated agitation continues, however, the new normal may be less policing and more crime.

This may be fine with liberals who live in upscale, low-crime communities. But it will tragic for folks who live in poor inner-city neighborhoods.