Of Ferguson, Mo. and Fallujah, Iraq
(Fallujah is a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, 43 mi west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. In January 2014, a variety of sources reported that the city was controlled by Al-Qaeda and/or its affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS; sometimes called ISIL). It had been re-taken after a gargantuan effort by US Forces had the area neutralized and safe. Unfortunately, the area was turned back to Iraqi forces to govern but reverted very quickly to terrorist control) jsk
By the brilliant BRET STEPHENS
The Wall Street Journal
Aug. 19, 2014
Bill Bratton has no doubt as to what went wrong with policing in the US in the bad old days of the 1970s and ’80s. “The biggest mistake,” he insists, was too much “focus on response to crime and not enough focus on trying to prevent it.”
In a lengthy Monday morning interview with The Wall Street Journal, New York’s top cop refuses to be drawn into second-guessing his colleagues in Ferguson, Mo. When I ask about the seeming militarization of police forces in the US, he replies that each community “equips its police based on the needs for its city.” If people can lawfully own Kalashnikov-style weapons, the cops inevitably are going to go one better.
What Mr. Bratton mainly wants to underscore is that crime in the Big Apple continues to plumb historic lows, never mind recent tabloid headlines. He wants to underscore, also, the reason for it: “broken-windows” policing methods. Such is his belief in broken windows that he comes to the meeting flanked by the man who helped come up with the idea: George Kelling, the legendary criminologist.
Broken windows stresses that endemic criminality is not primarily a function of the usual “root causes”—poverty, racism, bad schools, broken families and so on. The real problem is disorder itself.
“Disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence,” Mr. Kelling observed in a seminal 1982 Atlantic article, co-written with the late James Q. Wilson. The mere appearance of disorder—graffiti, broken windows, an abandoned car, drug dealers or prostitutes openly plying their trades—creates a sense that nobody’s looking, nobody cares, nobody is in charge. Bad guys respond to these environmental cues by acting badly. Good people stay off the street, bolt their doors, move out.
Ferguson is hardly the most dangerous neighborhood in St. Louis County; rates of violent crime are just below the national median, and far below those of East St. Louis, probably the most violent neighborhood in America.
But there is disorder in Ferguson. The city has 190 crimes per square mile, compared with a national median of 39.3. If you live in Ferguson, you are nearly twice as likely to have your car stolen, get mugged, or have your house broken into, than if you live in Averageville, USA Before last week, the biggest story out of Ferguson was the case of a woman who had opened a strip club/brothel in the basement of her home. Her 16-year-old son had the job of tending bar.
This was the environment in which police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed teenager Michael Brown. Whatever the exact circumstances of Brown’s death, everything else about the case suggests a town where broken-windows policing was not being done, or at least not done well. A sense of insecurity and disorder. A police force badly out of step with the community it ostensibly serves. Reactive law enforcement.
At the Journal, Mr. Bratton made a point of emphasizing the nine principles of policing laid down in the 19th century by Sir Robert Peel, founder of London’s Metropolitan Police. Principle No. 9: “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.” By this standard, policing in Ferguson has been a total failure.
II Which brings me to Fallujah.
Last October I wrote a column with the headline “Iraq Tips Toward the Abyss.” It was prompted by the news that 7,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed over the previous 10 months alone.
“Americans may think they’ve changed the channel on Iraq, but the grisly show goes on,” I wrote. “Pay attention before it gets worse.” The world yawned and the Obama administration did nothing.
In January came the news that a group called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham had retaken Fallujah, just 40 or so miles west of Baghdad, a city that US Marines had liberated a decade earlier at a major cost in lives. The media ran a few stories about the heartache of the battle’s veterans. President Obama said nothing.
In July, ISIS took Mosul and seized six divisions worth of US supplied Iraqi military equipment. For once, President Obama took public notice but waited another month before doing anything, ostensibly because he disapproved of the leadership in Baghdad. That was around the time Kurdistan nearly fell to ISIS and the Yazidis were nearly wiped out.
This is a case study of allowing neighborhoods to decay and disorder to fester; of doing things reactively, not preventively. Where would we be in Iraq today if Mr. Obama hadn’t simply walked and looked away for the past three years?
The answer to disorder is to provide order. To engage community leaders. To enforce norms. To reassure good citizens that their security is being looked after and it’s not every man for himself. To maintain a visible presence that deters would-be lawbreakers from committing criminal acts. To prevent bad people from acting badly, and to punish them swiftly when they do.
This is how a successful police force like the NYPD works. And it’s how a competent foreign policy should operate. Bill Bratton knows his job—which is more than can be said of the Keystone cops in Ferguson, or at the White House.
Obama’s foreign policy is disastrously reactive—like the police response in Ferguson, Mo
(But no one states the obvious underlying motivation except acute, clairvoyant Dinesh D’Sousa. At least 5 years ago, D’Sousa warned us that Obama is doing it on purpose with one goal in mind – DESTROY THE US. And … how successful he has been in such a short time! Not even the astute political analyst Dick Cheney with Sean Hannity or the brilliant Bret Stephens in this column has the plain guts to spit out the truth of Obama’s motivation and culpability and … we continue to suffer the dire consequences) jsk
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