Friday, March 13, 2015

A No-Win Situation

Among the many things coming under fire during the scrutiny of officer-involved shootings of minority men is the concept of Community Policing.  Departments in places like Madison and Oshkosh have broken down their jurisdictions into smaller segments, often keeping the same officers on patrol in those areas so that those living in those neighborhoods might become familiar with them and build a level of trust.  To do that, those officers need to be seen often in those neighborhoods and to interact with residents.

But this week in an interview with CNN, a spokeswoman for Madison's Young, Gifted and Black Coalition told the anchor during an interview that "We don't want police in our neighborhoods all the time--looking for crime.  White people don't have to put up with that kind of scrutiny.  The police should only come when they are called." 

That spokeswoman's comments are in line with pre-Tony Robinson shooting positions held by the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition.  In an open letter to Police Chief Michael Koval published in the January 9th edition of the Wisconsin Gazette the same group says: "Although Madison's model of community policing and attempt to build trust between the community and police, even acting as “social workers,” may be a step above certain other communities, our arrest rates and incarceration disparities still top the nation. The relationship that we desire to have with the police is simple: no interaction. Our ultimate goal is to be able to hold our own communities accountable and to expel what we consider an occupying force in our neighborhoods. Our people need opportunities for self-determination, not policing."

As Chief Koval pointed out in his response, Community Policing was developed at the request of people living in the high crime neighborhoods--who had grown tired of the influence of drugs and crime--and that the idea of people policing themselves was laughable.

Back to the spokeswoman's comments to CNN, the officer involved in Tony Robinson's shooting was, in fact, called to that scene.  He wasn't out pulling over carloads of black teenagers for minor equipment violations to make a drug bust.  He wasn't stopping and frisking black men who match the description of a "suspicious person" reported in the area.  He was called to the Willy Street neighborhood on the report of Tony Robinson jumping in front of cars in the street.  Is that the most heinous crime in the history of mankind?  No.  But what would have been the community's response if Madison Police had told the callers, "Hey, why don't you 'self-determine' a way to get him to stop?"--which of course would be followed by the headlines: "Madison Police allow young, black man to be run over in the street--community demands better response."

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