Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Obama Legacy in Milwaukee Policing

From Heather Mac Donald in City Journal: a discussion of how Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to undo the anti-police policies of the Obama Administration. Mac Donald specifically discusses Milwaukee:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reoriented the [collaborative reform] program to help departments fight crime, rather than phantom police bias, without imposing a costly bureaucratic overlay. The changes come too late, however, for the Milwaukee Police Department, whose chief, Ed Flynn, was sweet-talked into collaborative reform by the former head of the COPS office. In 2016, Milwaukee’s collaborative-reform team produced a draft 243-page report, characterized by the usual Obama hallmarks—above all, a disparate-impact approach to finding police bias that measures police activity, like stops or arrests, against population ratios rather than against crime rates. The current DOJ lawyers agreed with Flynn that the draft report was seriously flawed and should not be released until its errors were corrected. But someone—whether an Obama aide, a member of the collaborative-reform team, or a Milwaukee police official—leaked the report to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and to the city council. The Journal Sentinel, which has waged a crusade against Flynn for years, splashed its nearly 3,000-word article on its front page under the unintentionally hilarious headline: TRUST IN POLICE DAMAGED, REPORT SAYS: DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DRAFT SAYS MILWAUKEE CHIEF RELIES TOO MUCH ON DATA. Accusing a police department of relying “too much on data” is like accusing a doctor of relying too much on evidence-based disease markers in his diagnoses. Another term for “data-driven” is “victim-driven,” since crime data simply record the incidence of criminal victimization. The Journal Sentinel followed up with another front-page piece the next day: 9 KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE DOJ DRAFT.

Predictably, the report criticizes traffic-stop rates, allegedly three times higher for blacks than for whites. The investigators concede that the department deploys its resources based on “data to identify neighborhoods of higher crime rates.” Race, in other words, has nothing to do with deployment or enforcement. But, the report goes on to explain, “community members have expressed concern that the areas identified as high crime are also more populated by minority community members. As a result, MPD’s data driven policing strategy has a disparate impact on minority community members.” This, in a nutshell, is the core dilemma facing police departments today. Given the huge disparities in law-breaking, the police cannot go to where people are most being victimized without generating racially disproportionate stop and arrest data. In 2016, blacks made up 89 percent of robbery suspects in Milwaukee, 85 percent of aggravated-assault suspects, and 81 percent of homicide suspects, though they are 39 percent of the population. Their victims were predominantly minority. The nonfatal shooting rate for blacks is over 15 times higher than for whites; the homicide rate is over 11 times higher than for whites. The only way to avoid generating racially disproportionate police activity data is to stop serving the minority victims of crime. No one has articulated this bind more eloquently over the years than Ed Flynn.

The dilemmas of policing in the Black Lives Matter era were put on vivid display this April, when Milwaukee’s city council voted to require the MPD to loosen its policy on car chases. The current MPD policy, instituted by Flynn, requires a high threshold of criminal behavior before officers can give chase; it represents the gold standard of “progressive” policing, because high-speed car chases are extremely dangerous. But the city council now wants officers to crack down on reckless driving because minority communities have complained about speeding, often by carjackers who zoom away after stealing cars. Nearly 90 percent of car-theft suspects are black, but the same municipal officials who routinely blame the MPD for high rates of black incarceration are now demanding that the department ramp up enforcement against the black population. “It’s more than a little baffling to me,” reports Flynn, “that the same city council that’s on the record as opposing putting people in jail for committing crimes wants us to engage in more pursuits that place innocent lives at risk to catch people they don’t want to see put in jail.”

The collaborative-reform draft cites MPD’s alleged failure to engage in community policing. In fact, Flynn has put so many officers on bikes to interact with the community that critics have accused him of letting patrol-car response times increase. The report also alleges that the department has a patrol workforce that does not “reflect the diversity of the Milwaukee community at large.” Like every other department in the country, Milwaukee tries to recruit as many minority candidates as possible. The Black Lives Matter narrative that policing is racist does not facilitate that effort; nor does the fact that minorities are more likely to have a criminal record and weaker test scores. It’s unlikely in any case that further racial engineering would improve policing: another Obama-era collaborative-reform report found that black and Hispanic officers in Philadelphia had a much higher rate than white officers of shooting unarmed black males. That disparity, which has been found elsewhere, undoubtedly derives from racial quotas in hiring.

As if the leaked report were not causing the MPD headaches enough, the Wisconsin ACLU is suing in federal court for a consent decree against stop, question, and frisk. The suit is based on the usual specious disparate impact analysis.
Law enforcement policy, better than almost anything else, shows how liberals are so attached to their narrative of black victimization at the hands of whites that they will harm black people to avoid admitting the flaws in that narrative.

Blacks are most certainly victims of crime, and they are by a vast disproportion more victimized than whites. But the idea that blacks are mostly victimized by other blacks is something that would create huge cognitive dissonance among liberals.

Liberals are, however, happy with the notion that black people are mostly the victims of white cops.  Thus we have a war on cops.  Which is also, de facto, a war on black people.

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