Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Calls For Volunteers To Patrol Streets

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson recently put out a call for 10,000 men (particularly Black men) to step up and volunteer to patrol troubled neighborhoods. The city has seen an increase in violence this year, with approximately 296 murders so far. The call for volunteers is part of an initiative to train ordinary citizens to go into some of the most troubled neighborhoods in the city, in an effort to deter violence. The Pennsylvania State Police have already stepped in to help stem the violence.

But the idea is already drawing critics, with some who feel that the effort isn't enough and that the Police chief is incompetent, and others who feel that people shouldn't be expected to do the Police Departments job for free. (I thought this was a volunteer effort, so therefore, I don't know how anyone would expect to be paid).

I am in disagreement with the Hip Hop intellectual Lester K. Spence, who doesn't have much faith in the effort because citizens shouldn't be expected to Police for free. The whole basis for his argument is flawed. First of all, it is my understanding that the volunteers will not be engaged in "Policing" or enforcing any laws whatsoever. They will have no powers of arrest & no police authority at all. In other words, the volunteers will observe and report. This has been the job of the citizen since organized policing began. Most police activity is in fact initiated by a call from a witness....a citizen, with a concern or complaint. So this approach is no different from an enhanced neighborhood watch program.

I have mixed feelings about how effective such an effort could be. Yes, it may bring down crime temporarily in the areas where it is implemented. However, I see this as a band-aid solution for a much more serious illness. Some of the criminal activity will simply move to other locations throughout the city. Without creating a more comprehensive plan that addresses some of the underlying problems that make these communities more prone to criminal activity, then this effort may fall short...or it will at least not reach its potential. Issues such as truancy, gangs, lack of economic opportunity, creating activities for youth, enhancing community policing efforts- Put officers back into the neighborhoods, improving educational opportunities, engaging parents...all have to be a part of the plan. Enhanced neighborhood watch (which is essentially what this will be, despite what the reports might say) will not be all that effective without a simultaneous effort to deal with these other community issues.

Then there is the issue of finding enough men who are willing to step up in this "no snitching" culture. There is both the issue of men not being willing because they have bought into that culture, and the issue of some men being afraid that they might be targeted by gangs, drug dealers, etc...for cooperating with the police.

My overall view is that this effort will probably help and it is a start, and it deserves the support of the community. However, the problems in these heavily Black inner cities has more to do with culture, than anything that a police force could tangibly fight. The police department cannot stop a young man or woman from making bad choices and having children out of wedlock or having children before they are emotionally or financially ready to handle that responsibility. The police department cannot read to your child or help your child with their homework everyday. The police department cannot force men to be good fathers for their children. The police department cannot fight anti-intellectualism and anti-education values within the community. These issues have to be dealt with by parents.

But I do support this effort, although it does not appear to be a part of a more comprehensive plan. Such efforts have been successful in other cities. However, the most successful efforts tend to be initiated by citizens...the men who live in troubled neighborhoods. This effort appears to be something driven by the Police Commissioner and a few community leaders. So how much actual grassroots support this gets remains to be seen.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

my comment about him being part of the "black mofia" is truth. watch the show "gangsters" on BET. he is even interviewed in the documentary. do your own DD.

Anonymous said...

http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2007/09/post_457.html sorry buddy, the past catches up.