With all the attention right now focusing on cops killing African Americans, maybe we should dig even deeper into what is going on with policing in general. These killings don't just happen and they are not escalating for no reason. Racialized police practices, which have always existed in the USA, are quite simply becoming more intense. There is of course this Broken Windows policing theory we have heard more about lately, at least I have. By the way, Stop and Frisk should be seen as just an element of this overall policing policy. An editorial by the Kasama Collective rightly shows,
The supposed theory behind the Broken Windows policy is that if the NYPD keeps poor people in line, and enforces “order” in poor and working-class neighborhoods, overall crime will go down citywide. The liberal establishment likes the policy because it is aimed at keeping things away from them they don't want to see. But it's no kind of actual “police reform,” it accepts the police as they are, their brutality not checked but only slightly redirected. And this policy doesn't challenge the right of the city to use military-style repression against New York City communities as long as they're outside the neighborhoods where real-estate money has squeezed regular people out.
A report on NYPD practices, published on recently by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan provide plenty of evidence that the Broken Windows policy has indeed been racist. The report finds that, since 1980, “the percentage of New Yorkers arrested for misdemeanors has tripled” and that this huge increase has disproportionately fallen on the city’s communities of color. Since 1990, “[t]he number of blacks arrested for misdemeanors nearly doubled.” And for Latinos, the numbers are even more dramatic; 30,885 were arrested for petty crimes in 1990, while 78,733 experienced the same fate in 2013.
At the same time Salon points out:
White people, on the other hand, had an easier go of it. Back in 1990, a shade less than 22,000 were nabbed for small stuff like jumping a subway turnstile or carrying with them a small amount of pot. By 2013, that figure was 28,996 — a relatively minor bump.
New York's liberal mayor's good buddy and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton claims that the Broken Windows policy is not racist, rather, he says it is the troubled nature of black and Hispanic neighborhoods that cause the concentration of this sort of police activity. Liberals usually applaud this policy which they say holds that urban crime is facilitated when small problems are left to fester. When broken windows are left unfixed, streets unswept and minor crimes unpunished, criminality – the theory goes – is encouraged. Supporters of the policy, "to use the metaphor of the idea, actual broken windows create the appearance of disorder, which creates actual disorder as criminals take advantage of the inviting environment. Rather than wait for the serious crimes to begin, police should “repair the windows”—focus on petty crime like loitering, and you’ll stop the worse crime from taking hold."
Unfortunately, study after study, including one in 2006 carried out by the University of Chicago find no evidence that the policy works. The study reports:
...the evidence from New York City and from the five-city social experiment provides no support for a simple first-order disorder-crime relationship as hypothesized by Wilson and Kelling nor for the proposition that broken windows policing is the optimal use of scarce law enforcement resources.
In reality, the theory is rooted in the belief that poverty is a moral failing, with the lower classes having too many civil rights. The broken windows approach to law enforcement encourages the police to treat people of color and the poor as less then human, as criminals, and to abuse them accordingly in the name of law and order. Justin Peters writes in the Atlantic,
The principle behind this idea, however, is at the root of broken windows policing: the idea that lower-class men are inherently dangerous and untrustworthy and are likely to commit crimes in the future even if they’re not doing so today. To put it another way, there are times where “the essential welfare of individuals must be sacrificed for the good health of society...
This theory encourages the police to conflate supposed cultural deviance with criminal deviance, to assume that a “disreputable or obstreperous” demeanor indicates some more destructive pathology. Kelling and Wilson cited the example of one effective Newark, New Jersey, police officer who had the habit of “taking informal or extralegal steps to help protect what the neighborhood had decided was the appropriate level of public order.” In other words, he targeted those who deviate from behavioral norms—norms that are defined by the dominant social class, of course. And while Banfield insisted that he was not making a racial argument—that there were lower-class whites as well as lower-class blacks—the fact is that class status correlates to socio-economic status, and urban poverty is minority poverty. No need for code words here: In modern America, “lower class” basically means “black.” “Disreputable or obstreperous or unpredictable”—that also means “black.”
Broken windows will always become an agent of neighborhood bigotry, because broken windows encourages cops to define lower-class men as basically another species and to make ad hoc cultural judgments the linchpin of crime prevention strategies. This is how looking different transforms into looking dangerous. This is how Eric Garner dies, mumbling “I can’t breathe,” held in a chokehold by a white police officer who works for a department led by a man who believes that if “you take care of the little things, then you can prevent a lot of the big things.”
While Bratton tries to pass off the disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos who are impacted by this policy he loves so well, on a stronger police presence in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods, where the population is largely Black and Latino, the truth is obviously otherwise.
In fact a New York Daily News review of nearly two million Broken Windows summons found:
It doesn’t matter where in the city it’s taking place, Blacks and Latinos are being targeted once again.
Some areas with large disparities are indeed largely Black and Latino. In the Mill Basin and Flatlands neighborhoods that make up the NYPD’s 63rd Precinct, Blacks and Latinos make up 52 percent of the population and 81 percent of summonses—a 28-percentage point difference. The disparity is the same in the 88th Precinct’s Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods, where the population is 60 percent Black and Latino, as are those who receive 87 percent of the summonses.
But why do Blacks and Latinos make up just as large a share of summonses in neighborhoods that are predominantly white? In the 20th Precinct’s tony Upper West Side, where 87 percent of the population is white, Blacks and Latinos receive 60 percent of the summonses, a 47-percentage point disparity. In its neighboring precinct to the north, the 24th Precinct, Blacks and Latinos receive 84 percent of the summonses, despite making up only 34 percent of the population. And across the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, in the Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Boerum Hill neighborhoods, 84th Precinct officers issue 78 percent of their summonses to Blacks and Latinos, who represent just 28 percent of the population.
The last two represent racial disparities of a full 50 percentage points.
Another 17 precincts—20 total—have disparities of at least 30 percentage points. Only one is a neighborhood that is home to a 50-plus percent Black and Latino population. (Officers in the 70th Precinct’s Flatbush and Ditmas Park neighborhoods, which are 52 percent Black and Latino, issue 84 percent of summonses to Blacks and Latinos.)
In every neighborhood where the disparity was six percentage points or smaller, Blacks and Latinos represent at least 87 percent of the population, but never fewer than 87 percent of the summonses.
Commenting on the Daily News report Rep. Hakeep Jeffries of Brooklyn said,
The traditional law-enforcement excuse is that Black and Latino neighborhoods suffer from disproportionately higher shares of crime, and that’s why Broken Windows is disproportionately enforced. These numbers reveal that the Broken Windows strategy targets Blacks and Latinos all throughout the City of New York, even in neighborhoods of relatively low crime.These citations are minor—“consumption of alcohol on streets” and “bicycle on sidewalk”—but they produce frequent (and potentially dangerous) police encounters. The policy, in other words creates a world for millions of black and Latino New Yorkers far different then the one lived in by white citizens. For Blacks and Latinos, the city is a literal police state, where officers patrol for papers and detain individuals on the slightest suspicion of illegal conduct.
Am I surprised in any way that policing policies are so obviously racist?
I think not.
They simply reflect the white supremacist foundations upon which this nation is based and upon which it continues cheerfully to function.
Do I think that such policies led directly to the death of Eric Garner?
The following is from Medium.
WHEN PEOPLE ARE PROPERTY: HOW STRATEGICALLY CHOREOGRAPHED, RACIALIZED FEAR BUILT PRISONS OUT OF BROKEN WINDOWS
“We suggest the ‘untended’ behavior also leads to the breakdown of community controls. A stable neighborhood of families who care for their homes, mind each other’s children, and confidently frown on unwanted intruders can change, in a few years or even a few months, to an inhospitable frightening jungle.”
A “survey, in Baltimore, discovered that nearly half would cross the street to avoid even a single strange youth. When an interviewer asked people in a housing project where the most dangerous spot was, they mentioned a place where young persons gathered to drink and play music, despite the fact that not a single crime had occurred there.”
“the evidence suggests that the large majority of the victims of police abuses are racial minorities, particularly African-Americans and people of Latin American or Asian descent. Racial disparities appear to be especially marked in cases involved deaths in custody and questionable shootings.”
“the unique set of criminal sanctions that are imposed on individuals after they step outside of the prison gates…These laws operate collectively to ensure the vast majority of convicted offenders will never integrate into mainstream, white society. They will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives — denied employment, housing, education and public benefits. Unable to surmount these obstacles most will eventually return to prison and then be released again, caught in a closed circuit of perpetual marginality.”
“are at increased risk of arrest because their lives are governed by additional rules that do not apply to everyone else. Myriad restrictions on their travel and behavior (such as prohibition on associating with other felons), as well as various requirements of probation and parole (such as paying fines and meeting with probation officers), create opportunities for arrest. Violation of these special rules [can result in a warrant issued for one’s arrest and] can land someone right back in prison.”