Book Recommendation: David Kennedy's "Don't Shoot"
David Kennedy is a criminologist who has spent decades working with
police in some of the most dangerous cities in America. In his book
"Don't Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America" he details how he and others developed a way to
dramatically reduce violence and general criminality in mostly black
This book challenges many of the fundamental assumptions of both the
left, the right, and libertarians. Some of his conclusions are:
- The police are not racist
- Guns are not the problem (people kill people, heh)
- Very little gang-related violence is over control of drug market "turf"
- Inner city blacks really believe the system is out to get them
- Aggressive, stop-and-search policing does not work
- Young killers are not psychopaths, and hate their violent world
As a very libertarian-leaning conservative, I had hoped Kennedy would
come out squarely in favor of drug legalization. He doesn't, but he
makes a strong case that the current War on Drugs is making things
worse, not better.
Inner-city black men don't actually believe that anyone in
authority--their churches, elders, or the police--actually cares that
they are killing each other in large numbers. Few murders are solved,
and the community, resenting the police, never testifies.
To break the pattern, Kennedy will get the police, prosecutors, parole
officers, church leaders, community activists (ugh, I know) together
with members of the worst drug crew and lay out a simple message:
don't kill anyone. Then they focus their attention not on
stop-and-search but on cracking down on the gang when a murder does
happen. All the crews get the message, and huge decreases in murders
occur within months.
Kennedy's goal is to stop the killing and get the drug trade off the
streets so that communities become liveable again. Once this happens,
the law-abiding citizens once again report crime to the police.
In one of Kennedy's grad classes he asks his students who among them
could buy illegal drugs in that building today if they wanted
to. After a few moments of silence, most of the class members raise
their hand. That's the state of the War on Drugs for white
America--illegal drugs are readily available, there is little violence
associated with the trade, and few ever go to prison. If we could get
black America to that state, wouldn't it be real progress, even if
eradication were unobtainable?