Profiling per se and prisons reduce crime.
It is as simple as that.
In the ugly national debate fueled by irresponsible actions by a few on both sides of the proverbial thin blue line, we run the risk of inviting chaos or at least stepped up criminal activities.
Back in the 1990s as Manteca soared toward a record 798 auto thefts in one year along with upticks in a wide variety of property crime, police leadership doubled down on a proven strategy: If you target 10 percent of the criminals, you will likely address 90 percent of the crime.
Over the course of several years, crime started dropping. Even with the recent surge of property crime likely tied to California’s relaxation of consequences for certain crimes, Manteca and similar small to medium cities in the region are still enjoying lower crime rates than a decade ago when the yardstick of crimes per 1,000 residents — the only measure that works over time to provide an accurate picture — is used.
When Willie Weatherford was police chief the street crimes unit enjoyed success at reducing crime by essentially profiling. They found that targeting generally whites with a questionable sense of social responsibility plus a desire for certain types of recreational drugs as well as gangs whose ranks were virtually devoid of anyone that was black they were catching people who were responsible for the lion’s share of crime in Manteca.
Law enforcement has used profiling for years in one form or another. The FBI has elevated it to a science based on behavior and situational factors. The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department is employing a newer version of the concept using computers to analyze data in a bid to predict likely times and areas that crime will occur and deploy resources accordingly. That is a form of profiling.
Profiling exclusively by race — or any broad category such as gender, economic background, religion, ethnicity, or even dress — is wrong.
But if data based on environmental factors such as time, location, history, and such creates a profile of an individual that should be considered suspicious, shouldn’t law enforcement take that into consideration? Probable cause is absolutely essential but not paying closer attention to contributing factors in crime would be irresponsible.
As for the debate whether prisons are effective ways to reduce crime, consider this: It’s tough to kill, rape, rob, steal, molest, push drugs, or brutalize someone when you’re behind bars unless, or course, it is one of your peers.
Whether prison rehabilitates is a legitimate debate. But focusing on that conveniently ignores the primary reason we have prisons — to punish criminal behavior and to protect the public.
There is also a growing belief in some quarters that police are out-of-control.
Over the course of the last 45 years either as a police reporter, citizen, or an editor I have come in contact with easily 400 plus officers from three different sheriff’s departments, seven different cities, as well as the CHP.
I can say three of those 400 plus were unfit to be peace officers and either had their careers ended by criminal activity they partook in or else were drummed out of the ranks.
Of the remaining 400 officers, there were a few jerks. But then again if you lump together 400 people of any profession you’ll come up with a few jerks.
There have been clear cases where excessive force has been used such as shooting a suspect in the back as they ran from a traffic stop in South Carolina that certainly could and should be considered murder.
Most incidents — but not all — appear to have what could be considered mitigating circumstances such as lunging toward an officer or reaching into one’s pocket when ordered not to do so.
Nationally there is no place for excessive force in law enforcement. But at the same time the rush to judgment without giving an officer who resorts to deadly force the opportunity to be afforded the same rights as a criminal suspect of being innocent until proven guilty is more than a little disconcerting.
We should demand the highest standards possible for law enforcement.
And we should be realistic and understand they are humans — and not robots. They bleed. Their lives as well as victims and even suspects hang in the balance of split second decisions they are put into by the action and behavior of others. Again, someone simply running away is not something that justifies deploying deadly force.
As for our general overall attitude toward law enforcement, consider this: If you have a bad experience with an auto repair shop you tend to tell dozens of people. But if you a good experience that isn’t exceptional for some reason you aren’t apt to hop on social media and blast to the world that a police officer was professional in doing his job.
We need to refrain from painting law enforcement with broad brushes just like we demand that they refrain from doing to others.
Law and order is essential for a free society.
And we can’t have order without law enforcement.