Social issues like crime, criminal justice reform, mass incarceration and policing are very complex. The loudest voices often push simplistic solutions reflecting their limited viewpoint, accomplishing nothing more than distorting the issues.

Whether progressive or conservative – the common feature of all these groups, with a “tribal” mentality, is a response to complexity which denies all facts that do not fit neatly into their myopic view.

Quick fixes are easy, but effective reform requires a difficult process which includes: diversity of viewpoints reflecting the interests of every group impacted, exhaustive fact finding with unbiased analysis, constructive conflict with negotiation, and a time-consuming period of trial and error.

Exposing some popular myths I have observed during my thirty years working in the criminal justice system might be a good start. No doubt these observations will touch a nerve with agencies and groups invested in their particular “sacred” mythologies:


Community Policing is an impressive sounding policy, which most cops know to be a fraud. It artificially replaces real community policing, which used to be every beat cop’s job and responsibility, with a few designated “community affairs officers,” whose agenda is mainly public relations.

Most police unions go along with it because returning to REAL COMMUNITY POLICING would require cops get out of their cars, and get back to walking the beat. Officers would remain in one neighborhood for much of their career, long enough to truly know and become part of the community. Back to the days when everyone in the neighborhood knew, and most trusted their neighborhood cop.

During my fifteen years supervising parolees in Brooklyn housing projects, it was rare to meet a housing cop patrolling inside the buildings. They drove around the projects all day, entering buildings only in response to 911 calls. Few residents knew any cop by name.

Agencies must offer incentives to officers who make a long term commitment to their assigned neighborhood. It is the only way to develop close relationships with community residents they serve. That is when the community willingly provides tips to police officers regarding criminal activity,
and becomes a partner in policing their neighborhood.

Developing strong PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS with cops they know well, is the only way to build TRUST and strong bonds between police and community. This is real community policing.

Posted in Police reform, Policing, Zen and tagged , , , .