Trump's Police Commission Suggests Doing The Same Things That Haven't Worked For Years Will Reduce Violent Crime
from the let's-see...-steal-more-cash,-give-more-money-to-drug-warriors... dept
[Note: this is one in a series of posts on the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement’s lengthy report on all things police-related.]
During his, shall we say… tumultuous single term as president, Donald Trump made it clear law enforcement people were better than regular people, even though a whole lot of regular people were saying otherwise at the time.
President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.
SPOILER ALERT: the Trump Administration did not end it. In fact, he and the DOJ’s coddling of law enforcement may have made it worse. The DOJ scaled back its civil rights investigations of police departments and police departments responded by killing people just as often as they ever did, despite historic dips in violent crime rates. And when a white cop kneeled on an unarmed black man’s neck until he was dead (and for three minutes after another officer failed to detect a pulse), the country exploded.
Six months prior to this explosion, Trump ordered the formation of a commission on policing. All positions were filled by cops and prosecutors. A little more than a year later, its report [PDF] has been delivered. The report blames pretty much everyone but cops for the lack of respect shown to law enforcement. It also says several bad things about encryption and strongly suggests Congress mandate backdoors for easy law enforcement access.
But the report also hopes to address other law enforcement issues, including some recent spikes in violent crime around the nation. While the Commission does recognize some underlying social issues contribute to criminal activity, it also thinks the nation can police itself out of this current uptick in crime.
It says police should focus more on violent crime, which no one actually disagrees with… except maybe the police. Law enforcement agencies solve less than a third of rapes and less than two-thirds of murder cases. If you want to rob somebody, there’s a 70% chance you’ll get away with it. Meanwhile, cops camp out on interstates or highways running through small towns, hoping to hand out expensive speeding tickets or shake people down for their cash. The DEA, ATF, and FBI all engage in sting operations that sound a whole lot more like entrapment to ensure a steady stream of criminal defendants but do nothing to actually lower crime rates or take dangerous criminals off the street.
The Commission is concerned about violent crime, even if its target audience doesn’t appear to be.
Despite notable decreases in national crime rates over the past three decades, there remain many communities—especially in rural, tribal, and urban jurisdictions—that suffer from disproportionately high levels of violence and victimization. No citizen and no community should be left behind from crime reduction efforts. The rule of law must apply everywhere and to all people for it to properly guarantee citizens their peace and liberty. Unfortunately, violent gangs and drug trafficking organizations, empowered and armed by the illicit firearms trade, still terrorize neighborhoods. Criminals continue to abuse vulnerable populations, including women and children, at unacceptable rates in the form of human trafficking, sex abuse, and domestic violence.
But while the Commission says high-crime communities shouldn’t be “left behind,” the report speaks to (and for) a nation of law enforcement agencies that has decided (and gotten courts to agree with it) that people in high-crime areas are criminals and should be subjected to things like stop-and-frisk programs and highly-questionable gang databases. Their mere existence in high-crime areas makes them inherently suspicious, allowing cops to harass people who are already suffering from the impact of near-constant criminal activity.
The Commission has suggestions for reducing violent crime. And some of them are very problematic.
First, it suggests something called “pulling levers.” This is basically “problem-oriented policing” — a tactic that involves targeting one specific form of crime and using increased policing/deterrence in hopes that the ripple effect will reduce other associated crimes. One report (albeit one funded and overseen by the DOJ) says this works. But in other cases, POP/”pulling levers” produced no noticeable or sustainable gains in the fight against violent crime.
The Commission also suggests more of the same stuff law enforcement has been doing for years, like forming gang task forces. It says local agencies should partner with federal agencies, like the ATF, DEA, and FBI to combat gang violence. This has been done for forever and has been a failure, according to the Commission’s own (inadvertent) reckoning.
Gangs are increasingly more numerous in number and membership. The number of gang members in the United States likely exceeds one million. The FBI states that “approximately 33,000 violent street gangs, motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs are criminally active in the U.S. today.
It’s unclear how doing things that have already been done will curb this growth market, but the Commission clearly believes enough repetition will turn the tide of violent gang crime. Adding agencies best known for scoring their own goals in wars on crime/terror (when not just relieving people of their cash) isn’t going to help anything. At best, things will continue at this pace, which presumably means 100% of American citizens will be gang members within the next 25 years.
Going down the list, things get even more negligible. More task forces. More gun task forces. Harsher gun sentences. More ballistic forensic training. More money dumped into ballistic forensics. More ATF agents to do all of the above, even if the ATF is best known for giving people illegal guns and busting them for trying to bust fake stash houses containing zero drugs, zero drug dealers, and zero contraband of any kind.
The report also big-ups asset forfeiture, something abused so frequently and easily cops refer to it as “shopping” and citizens refer to it as “legalized theft.”
One useful tool in disrupting illegal enterprises is asset forfeiture, which deprives criminals of the proceeds of their illegal activity. It also helps to deter crime and the seizures can be used to restore property to the victims. The DOJ has made use of criminal and civil asset forfeiture as an effective mechanism to counter sophisticated criminal actors. Since 2002, the DOJ has transferred more than $8.5 billion in forfeited funds to victims of crime, and notably, forfeited funds are reinvested back into state and local law enforcement through the Equitable Sharing Program to promote and enhance cooperation among federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. In the last five years, the DOJ has equitably shared approximately $1.75 billion with state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
While the Commission pats the DOJ on the back for seizing so much stuff, its own stats on crime increases, the prevalence of gangs, and law enforcement’s inability to slow the flow of drugs into this country despite a 50-year head start undercut the narrative that forfeiture does anything other than enrich the agencies that participate in it. Doubling down on the wrongness, the Commission calls for more drug task forces (mainly known for legalized theft, no-knock warrants, and plenty of rights violations) and more surveillance of interstate highways (a great place for harassing motorists out of their cash). How this will suddenly impact drug cartels is unknown, considering this is something that has also been done for decades and has had almost zero effect on the drug trade.
The Commission also asks for more en masse rights violations. It suggests the federal government create a national license plate reader database. It also says the US Postal Service should be able to search more packages without a warrant.
It also recommends better enforcement and investigation of domestic violence cases, which is good. But nowhere in the report does it acknowledge law enforcement officers commit acts of domestic violence at a higher rate than those being policed by them.
If America’s cops are going to start bringing violent crime rates back down, they’ll need better ideas than this. Then again, they may not need to do anything at all. What’s being observed can’t be called a trend. A few outliers during a time of historic crime lows is to be expected. What it shouldn’t be is the impetus for repeating the failures of the past.