Pubdate: Sun, 03 May 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.


The riots in Baltimore in the aftermath of the death of an 
African-American man in police custody have produced anguished and 
thoughtful reactions. Here's a sampling.

David Simon, former Baltimore Sun police reporter and creator of "The 
Wire" TV show, in an interview with the Marshall Project: [The] drug 
war  which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city  was 
transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of 
trust, particularly between the black community and the Police 
Department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. ... [It] 
made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most 
arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught 
police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did.

Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a 
tenuous thing. ... Then at some point when cocaine hit and the city 
lost control of a lot of corners and the violence was ratcheted up, 
there was a real panic on the part of the government. And they 
basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth 
Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too 
much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn't even need probable cause. 
The City Council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain 
amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared 
maybe a quarter to a third of inner-city Baltimore off-limits to its 
residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you 
were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It 
was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary 
and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.

John McWhorter, The Daily Beast: America must de-escalate the 
persistent tensions between cops and young black men. The easiest and 
most sensible way to do that is to interrupt the foolish war on 
drugs. The gradual easing of laws against marijuana sale and purchase 
are a start. The tenor of black America's response to cops murdering 
black men should be a spur to going further.

If one generation of black men grew up without thinking of the cops 
as the enemy, black America would be a new place making the best of a 
bad hand, and we would finally start getting past the current 
tiresome and troubling situation.

Yet with the camera pulled back further, so to speak, I suspect that 
something constructive could still come of this mess. This is how 
things happen  history is always messy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic: We live in a country where the 
incarceration rate is 750 per 100,000. ... China has roughly a 
billion more people than America; America incarcerates 800,000 more 
people than China. And as bad as that national incarceration rate is, 
the incarceration rate for black men is somewhere around 4,000 per 
100,000. So if you think the incarceration rate for America is bad, 
for black America it's somewhere where there is no real historical parallel.

Cathy Young, Real Clear Politics: The riots in Baltimore following 
the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in police custody have 
reignited the debate about law enforcement and race relations. It 
should be a no-brainer that one can deplore police abuse (as more and 
more conservatives are doing, thanks partly to libertarian influence) 
and also condemn rioting and looting (as the vast majority of 
liberals have done, including President Obama). But along with the 
voices of reason and compassion, there are those living down to the 
worst political stereotypes: right-wingers who stoop to race-baiting 
and shrug off police brutality; leftists who pander to racial 
grievance and condone mob violence in the name of social justice.

The divisions are sharpened by the fact that the underlying issues 
are genuinely complex. Unjustified police violence and police 
impunity are very real problems.

At the same time, special treatment of police defendants is not 
simply (sorry, libertarians!) blind deference to state authority; it 
is part of a social contract in which we citizens deputize the cops 
to stand between us and the bad guys. The same communities that chafe 
at police mistreatment also clamor for protection from crime, from 
which they usually suffer the most.

Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg: So [President Obama says] we know how to 
solve the problems of urban America, but we  "we," that is, in the 
sense of "you people who don't agree with my agenda"  just don't care 
enough about children in need to do so.

The problem with these remarks isn't that they're partisan. It's that 
they're absurd.

They don't even fit with Obama's diagnosis of the problems at hand. 
Do we know how to make fathers present in their kids' lives, or how 
to make up for their absence? No. Are we sure how we should respond 
to the decline in manufacturing employment? Or how to stop people 
from getting involved in drugs? No and no.

Some people are confident that more funding for early education will 
yield benefits for poor kids. Others look at the same evidence and 
think that the few examples of success can't easily be replicated. 
Even if the first group is correct, there's no reason to think that 
early education will, even in tandem with other reforms, "solve" the 
problems of Baltimore. And federal efforts at job training don't have 
a sterling track record.

If I were president and thought I knew an obvious way to bring peace 
and prosperity to troubled cities  and felt pretty strongly about it 
I'd maybe mention it before my seventh year in office. Drop it into a 
State of the Union address, for example. But it just isn't the case 
that we're a new federal program away from fixing the problems Obama 
identified. It isn't the case that conservatives are standing in the 
way of what everyone knows would work because we just don't share 
Obama's compassion.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom