I CAUGHT A BIT OF FLAK IN MY LAST PRINT PIECE FOR ISTHMUS for writing:
Yes, send in the surge - hire more police. But give them the Giuliani-Bratton marching orders: drive, walk, bike, and bus the beat. Issue citations for littering, public drunkenness and vandalism. Respond to every noise complaint, crack down on loitering, throw the pissers off the bus and, yes, bust minor drug users. When in doubt, stop and frisk. Do so without regard to race, creed or national origin.
So, sure enough, Paul Soglin, who was the other half of this point-counterpoint, used his blog to brand me as a racial profiler. Paul, I am opposed to racial profiling. I am also opposed to reverse racial profiling. That certain conducts should not be prosecuted because one race or another may predominate is civic suicide. Chew on this stat from the State Office of Justice Assistance: 82 percent of all inmates in Wisconsin jails are male! Does that mean we should ease off prosecuting men?
I do not have the statistics for this but next time you read about an embezzler, dollars to donuts it's a woman. I don't know why that is, but who cares? It is behavior that matters. What are you gonna do? We got too many women here in embezzler's court so we gotta let a couple go?
I hold in my sweaty hands the October 2007 edition of Governing magazine. Cover article on one Michael Nutter, the presumptive mayor-elect of Philadelphia.
He is the Seabiscuit of this year's American urban politics... Part of it was crime, he said. Philadelphia's homicide rate has skyrocketed over the past 18 months, so crime was the dominant issue. Nutter took a chance. He came out in favor of aggressive police tactics including "stop, question and frisk." This turned out to be a brilliant political stroke.
No doubt, fanned by "talk radio."
But that's Paul Soglin on crime. I moved from the Lake Ripley area outside of Cambridge to Madison in 1991. Before my new home on Orchard Ridge here on the southwest side of town cleared, my family had to rent an apartment. We found a one-month lease in an apartment complex on Bridge Road, hard by what was then known as Broadway-Simpson, then the most notorious part of town. The first night there I understood why our apartment on the west side of that particular apartment building rented by the month. The noise never stopped!
The apartment complex residents called for a meeting with the mayor. They presented their issue. What did Soglin do? I kid you not. He gave us a reading assignment! You see, the residents were not sufficiently open-minded to understand our neighbors' difficulties. So we had to do some reading. And all we wanted was a good night's sleep!
SO HERE IS MY READING ASSIGNMENT
The Paul Soglins and Kristen Petroshiuses make the mistake all liberals make. They blame "the System" for all of humankind's ills. (Reminds me of R. Crumb's line: "Dis is a system?") Here is the problem with that: the individual is excused from exerting control over his own life until global, systemic issues are resolved. As Seinfeld would say, good luck with that.
Proving that a blind squirrel catches an acorn once in awhile, Bob Herbert of The New York Times reviews Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors by Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin Poussaint of Harvard University:
Racism is still a plague and neither Mr. Cosby nor Dr. Poussaint gives it short shrift. But they also note that in past years blacks were able to progress despite the most malignant forms of racism and that many are succeeding today. "Blaming white people," they write, "can be a way for some black people to feel better about themselves, but it doesn't pay the electric bills. There are more doors of opportunity open for black people today than ever before in the history of America."
Racism disgusts me, and I think it should be fought with much greater ferocity than we see today. But that's no reason to drop out of school, or take drugs, or refuse to care for one's children, or shoot somebody.
A POLICE OFFICER'S CRY
"We are not responding fast enough or severely enough to the most dangerous criminals in our midst."
Consider this from Madison Police Officer Caleb Bedford in the Hammersley Neighborhood Newsletter, October 2007:
This month I would like to invite you to attend a sentencing hearing. At 2:30 pm on Monday, November 19, a judge will sentence Kordarow Moore. (This is not the same man I arrested on Loreen Dr with a pocketful of crack; that was one of Kordarows brothers, Martez. Martez and one of the other brothers, Kortney, are in federal custody, thanks to good work by the US Attorneys.) The new courthouse is at 215 S. Hamilton St and this hearing is scheduled to take place in Room 8B. I realize that most of you will be working at that time, but perhaps some of you might have enough flexibility in your schedules to attend.
You may recall that Moore was living at 1435 Loreen Drive until recently. In July, a judge found Moore guilty of possessing cocaine with intent to deliver and carrying a concealed handgun. Moore was allowed to remain free on bail until the sentencing hearing. About one year later, while Moore was still out on bail, Officers Ted Fondrk and Dan Borth got into a fight with Moore on Hammersley Rd. I have seen the video of this fight, and I can tell you that it is one of the most compelling and sobering police videos I have ever watched. Moore fought with the officers as they struggled to detain him. Officer Fondrk then saw the loaded handgun in Moore's waistband and yanked it out. Officer Fondrk then held the gun out of reach with one hand while delivering knee strikes until Moore finally succumbed. (For those of you keeping score, this was the second illegal gun seized from Moore in a span of about a year.)
At the sentencing hearing on the 19th, the judge will consider a range of recommendations. I am not at liberty to disclose who will be making these recommendations or why, but allow me to bait you by revealing that a serious argument may be made for 6 months in the county jail followed by probation.
I am inviting you to the sentencing hearing for a couple of reasons. My constant refrain has been that, as a community, we are not responding fast enough or severely enough to the most dangerous criminals in our midst. So I am inviting you to witness an example firsthand of how sentencing decisions in our County courts impact public safety. We, the police, have caught (twice) and arrested (twice) a violent, armed crack dealer. We have offered him up to the court. Now the court will decide whether to remove this violent criminal from society so the rest of us might live safely or, alternatively, to allow him a few months in the county jail with Huber release privilege, followed by "supervised: release out among us.
The second reason for inviting you to attend this hearing is that through your witness you might influence the outcome.
Which puts me in mind of the complete disconnect between a City of Madison government that is finally starting to "get it" and the Dane County Board, my late, lamented part-time job.
Here are the citizens of Madison demanding safe streets and here is their County Board pushing the bad guys back on the streets as fast as they can. Dane County has a tremendous asset in the fight against crime but is not willing to put it into play.
GANGS FOR THE MEMORIES
The City's Special Report about Gang Activity in Madison & Dane County will be up on Madison City Channel 12 Wednesday, October 24 at 2 p.m.; Saturday, October 27 at 9:30 a.m., and Sunday, October 28 at 10 p.m.