“This summer, racial hate left holes in the heart of Dallas. Four summers ago, it could have burned the place down… Not much has been heard from the tiny neighborhood [of Dixon Circle] since then… We found nothing healed…”
An old policing colleague of mine, Chief Larry Hesser, alerted me to an interactive article in the Dallas News which takes a deep look at a troubled neighborhood in Dallas — Dixon Circle.
Take a look at the online article. I wrote Larry my initial response to what I had read. What’s yours? Can the thousands of “troubled neighborhoods” in America be saved? What should be the role of police in these neighborhoods? I have some ideas that I shared with Larry.
I sense we may be a small group of former cops that see the “big picture” and the “long, slippery slope” that has caused and maintained the “Dixon Circles” of America.
My immediate observation is that what we once thought is still the way forward (intimate, neighborhood and problem-oriented policing). But it got hijacked by 9/11, militarization, and the nasty “War on Drugs.” I remember saying in the 1980s that the War on Crime was, in effect, a War on America — specifically Black America.
We know that intimate, neighborhood-oriented policing adheres to the precepts of Procedural Justice and it works because it is about building relationships. We also know that just putting a cop in a neighborhood doesn’t work unless we are able to EMPOWER that cop to make improvements; in short, to make a noticeable difference; to be an advocate for those whom that cop serves.
I remember arguing with my mayor that our neighborhood cops needed to be able to directly contact the streets department about pot-holes, garbage dumping, weed-control and other things that directly impacted the lives of neighborhood residents. (Today, I would add that cops need to be able to help residents make sure their kids are reading at age-level, have recreational outlets, and job opportunities.)
My critics say that I expect too much from police. My response is that we expect too little of them – that they have the best opportunity to organize their neighborhoods and improve the quality of life within them. My understanding of, and in coaching our neighborhood officers in the 1980s and 90s, is that they were, in effect, to be little “chiefs of police.”
I sense that Sgt Sheldon Smith (in the Dallas News article) understood this and that is why he literally shakes his head in dismay today. I am sure he hears from younger officers that times have changed, it’s more dangerous out there, and so on… (All this, of course, cannot be supported by existing data.)
Yes, I am afraid things have changed, but it’s not the time that has changed as much as police leadership and, therefore, the cops. The Dallas News captures the problem all too well…
“Dallas police were shooting someone every few weeks in 2012. Anger in poor, black communities was ready to combust before the July afternoon when a cop chased an unarmed man through a crumbling neighborhood called Dixon Circle, shot him and killed him.
“Hundreds of people, some armed, filled the street that evening—held back from the body by a rampart of armored police and the pleas of a Dallas City Council member who feared Dixon’s fury might ignite the city.
“When the night was over, police promised to win back Dixon Circle’s trust: clear out the drug corner that blights it and meet the people who built it. Reporters covered a few police-hosted meetings and basketball games, and not much has been heard from the tiny neighborhood since then…
“We found nothing healed.
“Police still pass through almost every day — rolling up after a 911 call or gunshots, rolling out until the next emergency—leaving anger, wariness or disappointment in their wake. And yet, on rare occasions when an officer lingers past the latest crisis, he might find a friend in Dixon Circle…”
Nothing healed… And not much has been heard from the neighborhood since
Did anyone decide to take on Dixon Circle as a model, a case-study in which the true principles of neighborhood-oriented policing could be exercised? Instead, many cities lay low and wait for the next shooting and another exercise of community outrage!
In the meantime, “Not much has been heard from the tiny neighborhood since then…” Not much from the Dixon Circles, the Fergusons, the Baltimores, the St. Anthony Villages, the Baton Rouges of American, until…
- On an encouraging note, Dallas continues its commitment to neighborhood policing HERE.
“I remember arguing with my mayor that our neighborhood cops needed to be able to directly contact the streets department about pot-holes, garbage dumping, weed-control and other things that directly impacted the lives of neighborhood residents. ”
If city and county departments would send their teams out every day to check on residence and business areas, they would not have to depend on the police for information. Unfortunately, the police (apart from the fire department) is the only government agency that operates 24 hours a day, on the weekends, and holidays that can provide information instantly to the other government agencies. One of the problems is that the other agencies have their own priorities plus like the police, they depend on a strong tax base to enable them to provide the basic services and when it comes to lack of revenue and budget time, something has to get cut. What ironic is that many cities and counties turn over their services to the private sector and in many cases, actually paid money to the private companies. It makes you wonder how the cities and counties find the money to pay the private companies if they could not come up with money for their own agencies?
“My immediate observation is that what we once thought is still the way forward (intimate, neighborhood and problem-oriented policing). But it got hijacked by 9/11, militarization, and the nasty “War on Drugs.” I remember saying in the 1980s that the War on Crime was, in effect, a War on America — specifically Black America.”
I would also say that we ignore our political, social, and economic problems for a long time due to the Cold War. Now that the Cold War is over, we had a chance to work on those problems, but it also got hijacked by the first Iraq War plus our military industrial complex was looking for ways to stay in business apart from the issues you pointed out.
I was talking to a friend this morning over coffee and I told him that if I had of been a Police Chief I would have encourage the officers to get out of the police station and out of the police cruisers and get into the community to see where they can better serve the public as a hole.
Community Involvement even volunteering at the local food bank or soup kitchen would go a long way in helping to differ crime and help the officers get another view of the public they are called to SERVE & protect…. Lets face it the public doesn’t need protection 24/7 so the service should be encouraged. It’s not in my humble view a time to lock themselves behind closed doors at the police station and shoot the B-S, or harass the woman when they are paid and could give back in those days when things are quiet.
It might be hard to remember but Police Officers are called out from the people to serve the people and I believe it’s that part of the piece of the puzzle in police officers that might be missing today.
If the officer only confronts problem he will begin to harden his heart and see everybody as a potential problem to be dealt with swiftly and act accordingly…. just my belief but it’s one that I believe.
Larry and I have worked closely on leader development for the last 15 years.
I believe I too see the big picture. The social, economic, and political ills of many parts of America were very obvious to me that first night I wore a police badge. As crazy at it may sound that night was about three months prior to attending the police academy. I felt unprepared and I suppose have focused on learning as much as I could since then.
I fully agree that the “war on drugs” has been a failure and the second and third order effects have exacerbated many of our societal ills. In several hundred years historians will marvel at our failure to learn the lessons of alcohol prohibition. Pubic health is a public good and government should use effective policy instruments to improve public health. Substance abuse harms the public health, as does smoking, consuming too much sugar and fat, exercising too little, etc….. The criminal law is not an effective policy instrument for improving public health. Outlaw greasy cheeseburgers and we would soon find ourselves raiding back yard cook outs.
I disagree about the role of the police in ameliorating social, economic, and political ills. Police departments are now enabling failed governance. If the police assume more of the responsibilities of government then government will accomplishes even less. Policing needs to become a profession and professions establish jurisdictional boundaries. Thoracic surgeons do not remove abscessed teeth. Teachers teach. Engineers build. Police police.
YOU can learn more from Mark next month at the University of Wisconsin at Platteville: The 2nd Annual Conference on 21st Century Policing, Sept 16th! For more info, read my post for today.
The meat, tobacco, and sugar industries have done everything they could to prevent effective public health to the point where even police officers’ health have been compromised and the same for potential police recruits.
“Policing needs to become a profession and professions establish jurisdictional boundaries.”
Well, when professionals step out of line no matter what profession they are in, the public has a right to demand justice and accountability.
“ff the police assume more of the responsibilities of government then government will accomplishes even less.”
Yeah and when the private sector takes over more and more government services, society gets virtually nothing from them. Police play a large part in creating and maintaining the social, political, and economic ills, so they should play a large part in reducing them.
“If the police assume more of the responsibilities of government then government will accomplishes even less.”
If you look at the Northwest Mounted Police which became the Royal Northwest Mounted Police and later became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, those three organizations provided a lot of government services apart from police work during the 19th and much of the early 20th centuries because many of the other Canadian government agencies were not in existence in the Western part of Canada, Hudson Bay,and the Yukon.
While many of my colleagues may disagree, Gunther, I am a believer in police doing all they can to make our society work as it is laid out in our Constitution and its prevailing values.
When it comes to corporate, white collar crime and crimes committed by wealthy people, Rev Couper, the police are not doing enough or not at all. They need to stand up to corporations, wealthy people, their lobbyists and the politicans as well.
This is the 21st Century. Government exists and should shoulder its responsibilities.
Due to 9/11, people are now subject to warrentless searches and/or be put on a no fly list and they have no legal remedy to challenge them. In addition, due to the courts being packed with pro-business judges, people are being denied access to the courts and are being forced into arbitration when their consumer and legal rights have been violated. I don’t recall the cops as a collective group and as individuals arguing with Bush Administration that these things violate our Constitution and its values. All these post 9/11 laws have done is legalized police misconduct.