Jewish World Review June 24, 2003 /24 Sivan, 5763

Stanley Crouch

Crouch
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Consumer Reports


It's not profiling, it's good policing — and it works


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | NEW YORK In terms of domestic crime, things are continuing to look up in our town for two reasons. One is that all those people who are "warehoused" in state prisons are not out there committing more crimes, which means crime will go down. On the subways, it's down 15%. The other, of course, is that our city's police force - which should never be less than celebrated when it does things right and never less than castigated when it messes up - has been on the case. It is surely one of the finest police forces in the history of this nation and this city.

As we should expect, there is now plenty of talk, as there has been over the last few years, of racial profiling of black people in particular - even though the majority of murder, assault, rape and robbery victims in New York are black. There is no other way to enforce the law or catch criminals than to look for the people fitting the victims' descriptions of the perps. From January to June 2002, nearly 60% of suspects were described by crime victims as black, according to police records released this week. Slightly more than 50% of the people involved in stop-and-frisks during those months were black. This, even though blacks are 25% of the city's population.

Of course, if the police did nothing, or were extremely hesitant about stopping people who fit the descriptions, the protests would be that the NYPD does not care about black people, which is why it "allows" so much crime to take place in Negro communities.

None of these protests or these cliched renditions of contemporary conditions come out of the sky. There is an inarguably long history of unconscionable brute force being used against Negroes North and South since the end of Reconstruction in 1877. There have been everything from police homicides to disfiguring beatings, sometimes for crimes, some for talking too much stuff, sometimes caused by actions as professionally conducted as those of the Keystone Kops.

But we have seen major changes across this nation in the conduct of police departments over the last 40 years, very different outcomes in trials pitting community members against the cops and enlightened training and far better contact and dialogue between neighborhood leaders and precinct commanders. In all those respects - the tragic bu mblings and excessive force of a minority of knuckleheads notwithstanding - the New York Police Department has done itself proud over and over, which is why most New Yorkers, no matter their color, their sex, their religion, their profession, their neighborhood, feel much safer now. Even professional haters of police have to admit to that.

Yet one thing seems to elude the focus of those who - rightfully - keep the police under close scrutiny because they are they are only public servants who go to work wearing guns. The greatest threat to life and limb in minority communities is not the Police Department. It is the neighborhood criminal who does the killing, the raping, the assaulting.

Perhaps we will all live to see the day when those who speak out for the community against law enforcement excesses also will speak up for the community and demand that law enforcement mash down ever harder on the criminals who are the truest oppressors of the community and the greatest threat to civilized life within it.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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