Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Diane Goldstein — Take It From a Cop: The Drug War Poisons Community Policing

The Ferguson riots are the latest high-profile example of the deep schism between American law enforcement and the communities it serves. This schism has been made demonstrably worse by the way the drug war has blurred the police mission. The community policing mission should always be fundamentally different to that of the military—yet that often hasn’t been the case, thanks in large part to wrongheaded policies put in place decades ago. 
The long history of racial disparity in the enforcement of our drug policies was greatly exacerbated by the architect of the modern war on drugs, Richard Nixon. His vision was to create a crime- and violence-free society—but his false belief was that black heroin addicts were the primary cause of crime in our communities. 
Nixon once stated to his aide H.R. Haldeman, “you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.” 
Nixon’s dream of devising a criminal justice system that targets communities of color through the mechanism of our drug policies was achieved. According to the ACLU report “ War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” among myriad other sources, law enforcement’s attempt to eradicate drug use in America has hit communities of color the hardest.…
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) speaker and retired police chief Dr. Joseph McNamara once noted the effect of war language on law enforcement professionals: 
“When you’re telling cops that they’re soldiers in a Drug War, you’re destroying the whole concept of the citizen peace officer, a peace officer whose fundamental duty is to protect life and be a community servant. General Colin Powell told us during the Persian Gulf War what a soldier’s duty is. It’s to kill the enemy. And when we allowed our politicians to push cops into a war that they’ll never win, they can’t win, and let them begin to think of themselves as soldiers, the mentality comes that anything goes.”
Take It From a Cop: The Drug War Poisons Community Policing
Diane Goldstein | Substance.com
Then it was a short step to criminalizing dissent, which Nixon also attempted to do at the time of the Vietnam anti-war movement, especially after the bombing of Cambodia and the mass protests that followed. Of course, 9/ll and the Global War on Terror greatly amplified that.

See also Mike Konczal, Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit: The Neoconservative Origins of Our Police Problem, at Rortybomb.
Before it was anything else, the neoconservative movement was a theory of the urban crisis. As a reaction to the urban riots of the 1960s, it put an ideological and social-scientific veneer on a doctrine that called for overwhelming force against minor infractions -- a doctrine that is still with us today, as people are killed for walking down the street in Ferguson and allegedly selling single cigarettes in New York. But neoconservatives also sought, rather successfully, to position liberalism itself as the cause of the urban crisis, solvable only through the reassertion of order through the market and the police.… 
As James Q. Wilson explained in the 1982 Atlantic Monthly article that popularized the topic, “the police in this earlier period assisted in that reassertion of authority by acting, sometimes violently, on behalf of the community.” 
Before the modern liberal state of accountability and due process, the police force wasn't judged by “its compliance with appropriate procedures” but instead by its success in maintaining order. Since the 1960s, “the shift of police from order maintenance to law enforcement has brought them increasingly under the influence of legal restrictions… The order maintenance functions of the police are now governed by rules developed to control police relations with suspected criminals,” writes Wilson. According to this theory, order is preserved by the police out there, acting in the moment against minor infractions with a strong display of force, not by liberal notions of accountability and fairness.  
This neoconservative vision that started in the 1960s and continues into today doesn’t just inform local arguments about policing, but rather the entire policy debate. So much of the debate over the (neo)conservative movement emphasizes suburban warriors, or evangelicals, or the Sun Belt, or the South. But as Alice O’Connor demonstrates in her paper "The Privatized City: The Manhattan Institute, the Urban Crisis, and the Conservative Counterrevolution in New York," there was a distinct urban character to this thinking as well. Rather than a crisis of race relations, police violence, poverty, or anything else, rioting and the broader urban crisis were framed by the neoconservative movement as a crisis of values and culture precipitated by liberalism.
The broader urban crisis, in this story, hinges not on structural issues but on personal morality and behavior that can be restored by the extension of the market. Crime and urban “disorder” fit right next to social engineering and failing state institutions as a corrupt legacy of the liberal project and its bureaucratic, administrative governing state. Only the conservative agenda, as O'Connor puts it, of “zero-tolerance law enforcement, school ‘choice,’ hard-nosed implementation of welfare reform, and the large-scale privatization of municipal and social services” is capable of dismantling it. Only through the market, individual responsibility, and freedom from government “interference” can order result from the restoration of “political and cultural authority to a resolutely anti-liberal elite.” This legacy harnesses police excess to the triumph of the market. And as we see, it will be hard to dislodge one while the other reigns supreme.

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