Misleading Studies and Recommendations Lead To Failed Policies in African-American Communities.
I read The Crime Report almost every day. It’s a news service that is read by professionals in the criminal system. What strikes me about this service are the studies and the policy recommendations reported. In virtually every review I read thus far, the recommendations don’t appear to address the problem. Granted, I am not an epidemiologist or a researcher, but I have years of reading and reviewing well-vetted studies.
Today I read the article, How Building Police Legitimacy Can Foil the ‘No-Snitching’ Culture. The article discussed a study looking at why African Americans at risk for black on black crime don’t “snitch.” Based on that small sample, the findings should be used to direct large well-designed research. However, according to the article review, the study made policy recommendations that were old strategies cloaked in ‘innovative’ packaging.
The study was a qualitative one of interviews with 50 African-American young adults, aged 18-29, from two “violence-plagued” New York neighborhoods. The goal of the study was to understand and break the “no snitching” culture of African Americans deemed at “high-risk” for being victims or perpetrators of crimes. The study did not look at the “no snitching” culture of the men and women paid and sworn to protect and serve the community but instead looked at communities victimized by law enforcement and the criminal system. The study size was small and therefore, did not appear to meet the criteria necessary to draw reliable conclusions, let alone make policy recommendations.
Also, the study appeared biased, and the recommendations did not seem to support the findings. The study was an example of a survey used by the criminal system to double down on the war on drugs by focusing on nonfatal crimes as a means to force the community to “snitch.” Unfortunately, the findings that could help the community develop trusting relationships with law enforcement and the criminal system were missed or ignored or not considered relevant.
The interviews conducted in December 2017 in The Bronx and Brooklyn sought to understand why those “at-risk” shun cooperation with law enforcement. Findings published in Criminology & Public Policy, the journal of the American Society of Criminology. The report titled, “Oh Hell No, We Don’t Talk To Police.”
One interviewee, identified only as “Maurice,” summed up the prevailing ethos described by the authors:
A cop would arrest me for just being me, I got arrested for just walking, I just got arrested for a bunch of nonsense, so when it comes to cops…they will arrest you for having a pencil.
Based on comments from the interview, part of the problem appeared to be fear and distrust of law enforcement. The study circumvented this recurrent and pivotal finding to recommend more focus on gun control and non-fatal crimes. According to the article, which was well-written, the study recommended more resources be invested in nonfatal incidents. Such a recommendation would double down on nonfatal crimes that justified the deaths of Mike Brown and even Eric Garner. It was another study that supported bigotry and a war on communities of color under the pretext of protecting the community.
A Pew Research Center study, (a separate study), showed a racial divide in how white communities view police as opposed to how communities of color view police. While 75% of whites think cops do an “excellent job” in using “the right amount of force for each situation,” only 33% of blacks concurred. That was in agreement with the study that showed cynicism about police motives in black neighborhoods.
The findings, as well as findings from other studies, strongly support more research about the perception of police brutality, police misconduct, and police bias in communities of color.
If the purpose of the study was to get community cooperation, shouldn’t the solution address the community’s perception of the problem?
Why would anyone lend a helping hand to law enforcement if they feel that hand and more will be chopped off in the process?
African Americans feel law enforcement, and the criminal system don’t value Black lives. They cannot trust the criminal justice system to be fair and just. Many Blacks feel it matters not whether we cooperate or not, the system needs to feed on our bodies for profit. Our cooperation will drag us into a system designed to work against African-Americans. Often death and devastation follow when communities of color cooperate with law enforcement and that perpetuates a culture of non-cooperation or “no snitch.” Yes, the fear of perpetrator repercussion is another factor, mostly, because the community cannot trust law enforcement to protect it if members cooperate.
Doubling down on nonfatal crime as prevention is what we see today: the mass incarceration of the poor, mentally ill, homeless and people of color. The misinterpreted broken windows policy was and still is a landmark example of that approach. It was used to justify racial profiling, a war on poverty, and police killings of innocent people of color. This study interviewed only 50 Black young adults. It made a recommendation to be tougher on nonfatal crimes, partly as a means to force African Americans to “snitch.” The study did not look at the “high-risk” factors that underly nonfatal crimes, such as mental illness, poverty, or unemployment.
In summary, this study supported using nonfatal crimes as a carrot n stick to break the “no-snitch” culture in African-American communities instead of focusing on a broken criminal system. A system that incarcerates over a third of innocent people and justifies the murder of an untracked number of innocent people in its custody.