I’ve just now finished listening to the latest “Need to Know” podcast, in which Jay and Mona interviewed my friend Heather Mac Donald. Heather’s has been an invaluable voice of reason in what she has termed a “war on the police,” a war whose latest battle has been fought over the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy. Despite its manifest success in reducing crime by historic levels in New York City, most significantly in those minority neighborhoods that were once the most besieged by violent crime, the NYPD stands accused of racism in its application of stop-and-frisk. (You can read some of her City Journal pieces on the subject here, here, and here.)
Nearly alone among academics, Heather has pointed out what should be perfectly obvious to anyone who has not attended graduate school: that effective policing, independent of so-called “root causes,” can reduce crime and thereby enhance livability in once-troubled cities. End stop-and-frisk, she says, and prepare to see the murder rate in New York climb once again.
I can offer some proof for this assertion from my own experience with the Los Angeles Police Department. In Los Angeles, murders reached their peak in 1992, when LAPD homicide detectives investigated 1,092 cases. The number fell steadily in the years that followed, reaching 420 in 1999. But in 2000 the total was 544. Murders increased to 591 in 2001 and to 647 in 2002. What had happened?
It’s simple. Responding to the Rampart scandal (discussed at NRO here and here, among others), in which a handful of officers at a single police station committed all manner of misdeeds, then-LAPD Chief Bernard Parks disbanded the LAPD’s anti-gang units and imposed a draconian discipline system on the department, with the predictable result that police officers were disincentivized from finding and arresting those people most inclined toward violent crime. Thus freed from fear of the consequences, these people resumed the predatory habits they had for years been suppressing. The cost was the hundreds of lives that would have been spared had homicide trends merely continued on their downward path. Only when Parks was let go and replaced with William Bratton did the number of murders in the city begin to decline once again.
A similar fate awaits New York City if the anti-police mob is allowed to prevail.