Tuesday, November 3, 2009

contesting history

Ian Urbina brings us this horrific story from Cleveland, where a man that stands accused of multiple accounts of rape and murder could have been stopped much earlier, had police followed up on disparate police reports of assault filed over the course of many months.
The police in Cleveland were notified repeatedly about violence in the house of a convicted rapist where the decomposed bodies of six women were found last week, a neighbor said Monday.

The neighbor of the man, who was arrested Saturday night after the bodies were found, said the police had done little, despite the calls.
It brought to mind the bad old days of New York City, before Compstat. Under the current policing regime in New York City, so the story goes, these threads would have been woven together to create a picture of this monster, and he would have been stopped.

In this post-2001 world where everything scares the living daylights out of us, most New Yorkers take it as a given that elevated policing makes for more livable cities. Here in New York, the candidates for mayor and their surrogates argue over who gets the credit for the City's descent into a police state. Michael Powell in the New York Times:
Rudolph W. Giuliani, as he had done before, indelicately broached this rhetorical question while campaigning a week ago for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. If you elect the Democratic mayoral candidate, Mr. Giuliani, the former Republican mayor, warned a mostly Orthodox Jewish audience in Brooklyn, New York could well return to a time when a feckless liberal Democrat let services decay and crime and homelessness run rampant.
On the other hand, there are many who feel that Giuliani is, in fact, stealing credit from Dinkins:
“Dinkins faced a very sharp economic downturn, and he was in the very difficult position of coming in with high expectations from many constituencies,” said John H. Mollenkopf, a political science professor at the City University Graduate Center. “Yet he expanded the police force and rebuilt neighborhoods; he deserves more credit than he gets for managing that time.”

Mr. Dinkins’s most lasting achievement might have been in the very area where he now fares worst in popular memory. He obtained the State Legislature’s permission to dedicate a tax to hire thousands of police officers, and he fought to preserve a portion of that anticrime money to keep schools open into the evening, an award-winning initiative that kept tens of thousands of teenagers off the street. Later he hired Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, and in the mayor’s final years in office, homicide began its now record-breaking decline.
Alex Pareene, over at Gawker, makes my favorite rhetorical shift when he points out we're arguing about the wrong thing:
Let's talk about the cops, for a second: they are still operating under Giuliani levels of complete disregard for the law. They are getting drunk and running people over and shooting unarmed black people and sodomizing people in subway stations. The Civilian Complaint Review Board has become a joke, unless your case gets a lot of publicity. There's obviously no accountability, whatsoever, and no attempt to recruit and train more cops from the communities they actually police. The NYPD remains, primarily, the home of roided-out white people from outside the city with a great deal of contempt for civil liberties. The Mayor always sounds properly upset when some of them rape someone, but he's never done a damn thing to rein them in or change the culture.

What he has done is Keep Us Safe by never once giving a shit about Civil Liberties. The cops stop and frisk thousands more people every year, your 4th Amendment rights do not apply in the Subway system, and expensive and completely ineffective new rings of cameras are going up across Manhattan.

Bloomberg deserves to be run out of town on an inadequately funded public rail line for the 2004 GOP convention alone. Remember that ridiculous farce? No, of course not, no one does, besides the thousands of people improperly spied on, arrested, harassed, and detained by the NYPD. All of this was completely illegal. No heads rolled.

One more special bonus factoid: New York leads the world in marijuana arrests! Specifically, marijuana arrests of black people!
But no one cares about that. Instead, we read about places like Cleveland, cluck our tongues, shake our heads, and scold: that wouldn't happen here. Because we're different. We have a system based on law, order, and statistics. It's an attitude more fitting with the suburbs.

In fact, we should be taking better note and better care of our neighbors. That's how crime stays down -- not by voting for more surveillance cameras and inspection tables at the subway turnstiles.

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