How Not to Fix a Police Department

I have a new piece up on the City Journal California website today in which I discuss the state of affairs in the city of Oakland, California, and its beleaguered police department.

Making a bad situation much, much worse, the Oakland P.D. now finds itself under the control of a federal judge, and a left-leaning one at that. U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, who has presided over a long-running civil case engendered by a police corruption scandal, will soon appoint a “compliance director” to oversee the department’s efforts to enact reforms. You may recall Judge Henderson as the man who in 1996 temporarily blocked the implementation of California’s Proposition 209, which prohibited race and gender preferences in employment, education, and government contracting. (Judge Henderson’s decision was overturned by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; Prop. 209 has withstood all subsequent legal challenges and remains the law in California.)

Whatever the failings of the Oakland Police Department, they will not be remedied by the federal bureaucracy soon to be erected in the name of oversight and reform.

Along similar lines, in a piece on the City Journal site, my friend Heather Mac Donald has done her customary evisceration of police critics in New York. The New York Civil Liberties Union, along with some white-shoe law firms doing pro bono work on behalf of some sketchy plaintiffs, seek to end the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” program that has done so much to lower crime in the South Bronx and other blighted areas in the city. As is the case in Oakland, a federal judge seems to have accepted at face value some spurious claims made by the plaintiffs and their attorneys. If the plaintiffs prevail in hamstringing the police, they and their lawyers will be enriched while their neighbors suffer under the weight of the higher crime that will surely follow.

  1. Chris Campion

    It’s an enormous cliche’, but “the judge don’t live there”.  It’s pretty easy to sit behind a desk and write an opinion, but the judge isn’t returning home to what amounts to (aptly described by someone in the article) a New Jack City-esque fortress where the residents are almost hostages in their own building, with no means of defending themselves, nor of changing their building on their own, or moving.

    So who else is going to help them?  The police.  And the only way for that to happen is a very real police presence, in the building.  Unsurprisingly, this works, except for the dainty lawyer toes that got stepped on in the process while trying to run something up in front of a friendly judge that sits very apart from the stairwells and hallways of a place like River Park Towers.

  2. Jeff

    Like it or not, stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional. If you don’t like the law, convince your fellow citizens and change it.

    A Terry stop requires “reasonable suspicion.” The rationale for stop-and-frisk is to arrest people for possession of illegal guns. (Unless you’re a crony of the city establishment, all guns are illegal in New York.) But guns are found in less than 0.2 percent of stop-and-frisks. That’s less than 2 per one thousand stops.

    Can suspicion be “reasonable” when it’s wrong 99% of the time?

    Here’s the police illegally assaulting and harassing a teenager. Not exactly New York Finest’s finest hour.

    As usual,  illegal assaults by police are not prosecuted. Having a badge is a title of nobility or something. No one is looking out for the kid’s rights. You can’t expect people to put up with this.

    Stop-and-frisk tactics have become a pretext for police to harass and intimidate people they don’t like. The tactic limits individual liberty to a police officer’s partial and arbitrary discretion. That’s wrong.

    Use Terry stops when there’s real suspicion. End stop-and-frisk. 

  3. DutchTex

    I look forward to Mayor Yoo’s implementation of a requirement to conceal carry.

  4. DocJay

    Forget it Jake, it’s OakTown.

  5. Mark Lewis

    Great article. I work with Oakland cops who are doing their best to work with the community to police the city. They get very frustrated that they must spend so much of their training and time/energy jumping through hoops. AND, they are trying to learn how to somehow get the bad guys without pissing off the good guys – especially when the bad guys pretend to be good guys and not0-actively-bad-sort-of good guys support the bad guys out of some “us/them” mentality. Tough game.

  6. Foxfier

    That last paragrap sounds like the shocking discovery up here in Washington that the area where that idiot woman found out that shoving a cop in the middle of a mob gets you decked, which has a huge jaywalking (and thus people being hit by cars) problem, also has a huge number of “racial bias” complaints.

    Gotta “love” activists with power and authority to abuse!

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