Riot ideology and de-policing

Walter E. Williams

8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM - Walter E. Williams
A Seattle policeman explained de-policing as: "Parking under a shady tree to work on a crossword puzzle is a great alternative to being labeled a racist and being dragged through an inquest, a review board, an FBI and U.S. attorney investigation, and a lawsuit." According to columnist John Leo, that's precisely what's happening in Cincinnati in the wake of the city's recent riots. There's less patrolling to prevent low-level crimes. Policemen await 911 calls. As a result, crime soars. Since Cincinnati's April riots, sparked by a policeman's shooting of an unarmed black man, arrests are down 50 percent and traffic stops are down 55 percent. Shootings are up. There have been 59 incidents and 77 gunshot victims. Leo says criminals know all about de-policing, and they are less fearful of police apprehension. Kweisi Mfume, director of the NAACP, other black "leaders" and white liberals have labeled Cincinnati as "the belly of the beast" of police violence against blacks and a "model of racial unfairness." There's little evidence to support these charges. Leo reports that Cincinnati's big corporations practice affirmative action, and since Cincinnati has a history of helping escaped slaves, the city is building an Underground Railroad museum to commemorate that history. "Fifteen men shot in six years," has become the mantra of black and white liberals. According to a Cincinnati Enquirer probe, only four of the shootings raise serious questions about officer misjudgment or excessive force. The others seem justified and include one man shot who had axed a 15-year-old girl to death and held police off for four hours, and another who dragged a policeman to his death in a car. Heather MacDonald, writing in the City Journal, says, "A Cincinnati cop is 27 times more likely to die at the hands of a black man than a black man is to die at the hands of the Cincinnati police." There's no excuse for police misconduct and racist behavior; but police misconduct and racism is the least among the many problems facing the black community. Fifty percent of prisoners are black; 25 percent of black youth are in some form of custody by the criminal justice system; 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock; only a little over a third of black children live in two-parent families; and low black academic achievement spells disaster in the increasingly high-tech world of the 21st century. Nobody's saying there are not instances of police misconduct and excessive use of force, but it's crime that imposes a devastating cost on the overwhelmingly law-abiding people in many black neighborhoods. Because of high crime, economic activity is lower and costlier than it otherwise might be. Supermarkets, banks and other retailers are reluctant to locate in high-crime neighborhoods. Black people must bear the expense of traveling to suburban malls to shop or face the alternative of higher prices at "Ma & Pa" shops. Crime lowers housing values. That's seen by the escalating housing prices when a neighborhood becomes "gentrified." High crime contributes to a process I call "accumulative decay." That's where people who care the most about safe streets, good schools and other neighborhood amenities -- and have the means -- are the first to move out. They are replaced by those who either care less or don't have the means to do better. The result: Neighborhoods lose their best people first. In fact, the rate of black migration from the city to the suburbs for decades has been greater than white migration. Black people don't like being mugged any more than white people. I await the day when the civil-rights establishment, black politicians and white liberals, instead of giving aid and comfort, exhibit the rancor and criticism of black criminals they now reserve for policemen.