Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Crime Beat Column: The War On Cops: My Q&A With Heather Mac Donald, Author of ‘The War On Cops: How The New Attack On Law And Order Makes Everyone Less Safe'

Heather Mc Donald (seen in the below photo), the author of The War On Cops: How the New Attack On Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal, where she reports on crime, culture, race and education.

I read her book and found it interesting and informative. I contacted her and interviewed her.

Below is my Q&A with Heather Mac Donald:

Davis: Why did you write this book?

Mac Donald: Because I saw crime going up as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and I’ve been hearing consistently from good, law-abiding people in high crime areas that they are desperate for the police, they support the police and their voices are never heard. I want to give them some exposure.

Davis: You’ve been credited with coining the term “The Ferguson Effect.” Please explain what that is.

Mac Donald: It was first used by the Sam Dotson, the St Louis police chief, to describe what he was seeing around St Louis after the Michael Brown Ferguson riots where his local officers were backing off of proactive policing and crime was going way up. I then noticed this happening nationally as officers across the country were pulling back from making proactive stops and the combined effect of de-policing and the resulting emboldening of criminals is what he referred to as the Ferguson Effect, but I then sent the term to going nationally. It is an ongoing phenomenal.

Davis: Why did you call the Obama Administration the most anti-law enforcement administration in recent memory?  
Mac Donald: Because President Obama took every opportunity to repeat a false narrative about the police that said they were systemically racist. He put more police departments under consent decrees than other administration in history and this had an extraordinarily demoralizing effect on law enforcement.

Davis: How would you describe reactive and proactive policing?

Mac Donald: Reactive policing is the officer responding to a crime after it’s already occurred. That 911 call that someone has been shot or someone robbed. That sort of policing is necessary and of course the police are still doing that with alacrity. But it doesn’t prevent crime. What prevents crime is officers using their powers of observation, their knowledge of crime hot spots and try to intervene in suspicious behavior before it rises to the level of felonies. Quintessentially, it’s “Stop, Question & Frisk,” and it’s also what’s known as “Broken Windows” policing, which mostly depends on an officer observing degrees of street disorder. Most members of the public are clueless about as to what it’s like to live in these high-crime areas, with kids hanging out by the hundreds on corners fighting, people loitering and trespassing and a lot of this is a component of open-air drug markets.

Davis: You write about “The Big Lie,” an idea that the police pose the greatest threat to black Americans.

Mac Donald: It’s ridiculous. A paramount example of this is Chicago, which is also one of the most powerful examples of the Ferguson Effect. Pedestrian stops – Stop, Question & Frisk - last year dropped 82 percent in Chicago. Officers are not getting out of their cars. An officer told me he never experienced so much hatred in his 19 years on the job. They are doing what they are mandated to do, but they are not doing the discretionary policing that has been labeled as racist by the activists and by President Obama. Last year there were 4,300 people shot in Chicago, one person every two hours. Two dozen children under the age of 12, which includes a three-year-old boy shot on Father’s Day, who is now paralyzed for life. Those 4,300 victims of shootings were overwhelming black.

Now if you believe Obama’s narrative that black parents are right to fear that their child may be killed by a cop every time he goes out on the street, you would think, boy, those Chicago cops have been very busy shooting all those black people. In fact, last year in Chicago, the cops shot 25 people, that’s .6 percent of all shooting victims. A larger percentage of white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by a cop than black homicide victims. That is, 12 percent of all whites and Hispanics who die of homicide are killed by a police officer, compared to four percent of black homicide victims killed by a police officer. So if you’re going to have an anti-cop lives matter movement, it would make more sense to call it “White and Hispanic Lives Matter.”

Davis: You called the media coverage of street riots “The Riot Show.”

Mac Donald: The media should cover street riots with sorrow and reluctance and do everything they can to not glamorize it, but instead there is a sort of “Riot Porn.” They fawningly try to find every act of violence. Now they need to be covered, they are extremely serious, but still, the media loves black race riots because they spin that into their narrative of an endemically racist country that is producing inevitably this type of civil disorder or outright violence.

Davis: In your book you claim that crime is not caused by poverty and inequality. Can you explain why you think that?                                    

Mac Donald: Well, the biggest poverty event this country ever had was the Great Depression. That was real poverty. The crime rate was virtually zero. These kids who are engaged in these mindless drive-by shootings all have smart phones. Everybody is posted their gang signals on their smart phones and bragging about their retaliatory shootings. This is not the behavior or the possessions of people who are direly poor. There are people in the same neighborhoods, say the children of Asian immigrants who have lower incomes, and they have a virtually nonexistent crime rate as well. What this is really all about is family breakdown.  

Davis: I agree. I was once out on a ride-along with a Philly cop and he got the call that two kids were stealing a car and the owner came out with a baseball bat and the kids ran. One of the kids was so scared that he ran right out of his sneakers. The cop picked up one of the sneakers and said they were worth almost as much as the older car they were trying to steal.

You write about what the left calls “mass incarceration.” Can you explain what that means and why you don’t agree?

Mac Donald: I think FBI Director James Comey said it best, there is nothing “mass” about this, and everybody in prison was put there one at a time with due process of law. It is really meant to get at the notion that we’ve got a racist drug war going on and the disproportionate number of blacks in prison is due to racism rather than criminal offending. This is just not the case. Every criminologist has tried to prove that and come up short. If we moved all drug prisoners from the nations’ prisons the percentage of the black population in prisons would drop from 37.6 percent to 37.4 percent, so drug enforcement has virtually no effect on racial disparities in prison, which are due to vastly elevated rates of violent and property crime.

Davis: Has anyone disputed your statistics?

Mac Donald: No, only students who will say, well, I don’t believe your statistics.     

Davis: What made you interested in crime? What were your early influences?

Mac Donald: It was really observing the media coverage, the New York Times in particular, of the Amdou Diailo shooting in New York 1999. The famous 41 shots. The New York Times ran three and a half articles a day for several weeks claiming that the NYPD was out of control, shooting unarmed black men all the time, when in fact shooting was at their lowest levels at that point. There was a huge degree of support for the police in the communities that the New York Times were claiming were feeling repressed.      

So I just keep following it from there and in the 90s we saw the whole “driving while black” conceit and it’s never gone away. For the last two decades this country has been talking obsessively about phantom police racism in order not to talk about the more difficult problem of black on black crime. 

Davis: Thank you.

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