Nothing so fully exposes the dream world of the left, in which good intentions and sentiments are thought sufficient to make reality bend to their will, than the enthusiasm for “re-imagining policing” that went along with the “Defund the Police” mania post-George Floyd. If we just “re-imagine” something, it will happen! We don’t even need to close our eyes and click our heels!
And one of the leading ideas was to replace armed police officers with “community violence interventionists” (sometimes called “violence interrupters”), who would be armed not with guns, but with social science and clinical psychology instead. Gee—I wonder how this turned out?
Wait no more. Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research recently issued a study about the matter, “Exposure to Gun Violence Among the Population of Chicago Community Violence Interventionists.” For some reason, the front page of the cover says, “Please do not quote or distribute without permission,” but if so then why did they post it on the internet, where it has drawn some quotation from a handful of media sources, presumably without permission? Social scientists are a strange bunch.
The study is the usual quantitative exercise thick with numbers and methodology, and the findings are stated as dryly as possible with no common-sense conclusions offered. As the study explains:
Interventions aimed at interrupting the transmission of community violence are among the most important and popular initiatives associated with the public health turn in gun violence prevention. Among policymakers, these approaches represent a means for reducing gun violence without further exacerbating the harms associated with intensive policing and incarceration for communities already burdened by multiple forms of disadvantage. . .
In Chicago and other cities, community violence interventionists are often referred to as first responders for good reason; in our study, approximately 80% of workers reported arriving at a scene of violence before traditional first responders. In contrast to other first responders, however, community violence interventionists are called upon not only to respond to acute violence, but to maintain a presence in its aftermath, helping affected parties cope with traumatic loss while actively managing the threat of retaliation and additional violence.
This is working so well at “interrupting violence” in Chicago. In fact, the last sentence of this preceding paragraph gives a hint of how it’s gone:
Deeply embedded in contexts of violence, community-based interventionists offer essential services to communities, but these services might be achieved by means of underappreciated personal costs to the workers that perform them.
Here are some of the numbers reported in the study about the “personal cost to workers”:
Our results establish that work-related exposure to gun violence and scenes of violence is common among Chicago violence interventionists. Nearly one-third of interventionists have seen someone shot while on the job, and more than one-quarter reported this experience within the last year. What is more, nearly 20% of workers reported being shot at while performing their work, with nearly 12% reporting being shot at within the last year. Beyond exposure, our results reveal that interventionists do experience direct gun violence victimization while on the job: 2·2% reported being nonfatally shot while working. . .
In addition to elevated levels of direct exposure to gun violence and scenes of violence, Chicago interventionists additionally commonly experienced indirect exposure to death, violent deaths, and interpersonal loss within their work-related social networks.
Really—who could have seen the coming? Maybe it’s time for Chicago to imagine actual policing—and prosecution—again.