Daily Reads: Underpolicing

In this very thought-provoking article in the Wall Street Journal, author Jill Leovy writes about what she calls the “underpolicing of Black America.” Leovy, who is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the author of the book Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America (from which this article is adapted) argues counterintuitively that focusing on non-violent petty crimes such as loitering, vandalism, and public drunkenness in minority neighborhoods – the so-called “broken windows” method of policing – distracts attention from violent crimes such as assault, robbery, and murder. In other words, the police go after the “low-hanging fruit” and ignore the more difficult to solve crimes. This makes it seem as if the police are cracking down on crime in underprivileged neighborhoods because they can boast of high arrest rates; but it also teaches the community that violent crimes are unlikely to be investigated and are therefore easier to commit. Leovy argues, provocatively, that the police harassment of Blacks and other minorities against which so many are now protesting is actually cloaking a larger injustice: a weak police presence in those neighborhoods that allows for larger-scale violence. As she puts it, “Today’s controversial policing tactics are part of a law enforcement model in which prevention is everything and vigorous response an afterthought. Officers are better at stopping people at random than at tracking down those who do real harm; they are better at arrest sweeps than at investigating major crimes.” The result is that these communities see the police as wielders of state-level control rather than as campaigners for justice, and serious offenders are able to continue operating with near-impunity.

The Underpolicing of Black America

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.