Tuesday, June 06, 2017
TKC BREAKING NEWS!!! DR. ERNEST EVANS WARNS OF CRIME CRISIS IN KANSAS CITY!!!
Dr. Ernest Evans is a friend of the blog and one of the top-ranking local experts on crime and politics. Today his column offers an ESSENTIAL PERSPECTIVE on crime and Kansas City. Checkit:
Dr. Ernest Evans: The Crime Crisis in Kansas City
In the twelve month period June 1, 2016-May 31, 2017 there were 142 homicides in Kansas City, Missouri. In the five month period Jan. 1, 2017-May 31, 2017 there were 52 homicides in KCMO--compared to 40 in the same time period in 2016. The significance of these statistics is that in the history of KCMO the city's highest number of homicides was in calendar year 1993 when there were 153 homicides in the city. Calendar year 1993 was at the height of the national "crack wars" in the nation's cities--the highest year for total number of homicides in the US was 1993. So, we are facing a major crime crisis in KCMO as the city approaches homicide levels not seen in nearly 25 years.
The crime crisis in KCMO is part of a national surge in violent crime. In the first six months of 2014 homicides in the US declined 6%--but in the last six months of 2014 they rose 5%. In calendar year 2015 there was an 11% increase in homicides in the US. We do not yet have the final figures for 2016, but preliminary statistics indicate that in that year there was an increase in homicides as large as in 2015.
The key reason for this national crime surge since the summer of 2014 is what is often called "The Ferguson Effect." On August 9, 2014 Michael Brown, a young black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. This incident led to increased public and press scrutiny of cases of police shootings of black suspects. Now, I hasten to note that there are more than ample grounds for public concern about the relations between police and the black community, but in the aftermath of the Ferguson tragedy all too often the media coverage was excessively sensationalistic and basic Constitutional rights of Due Process were ignored.
The "Ferguson Effect" is actually two separate effects. The first one is what I call "de-policing." When there is very high public controversy over issues of police-black community relations, cops on the beat start to assume that if charged with racist misconduct they will get neither fair media coverage nor due process by city authorities frantic to avoid civil disorder. So, out of sheer self-survival they stop doing their duties in black neighborhoods. Nature abhors a vacuum, so the gangs and the criminal elements take over these neighborhoods and crime explodes.
The second "Ferguson Effect" takes place over time. With so much negative publicity about the police in the US in the past three years a number of veteran cops have told me: "No one wants to be a cop anymore." On the eve of the Ferguson tragedy about 80% of the nation's police forces were below their authorized strengths. Now that figure is close to 100%.
KCMO has witnessed both types of the "Ferguson Effect." In earlier columns I have documented how the crime surge in the city since the summer of 2014 has been particularly serious in the black neighborhoods of the city. And, the KCPD has been losing officers faster than they can be replaced: In calendar year 2013, the last year before the Ferguson tragedy, there were 1427 sworn officers in the KCPD--as of March 31, 2017 there are 1294.
Since this is a national crime problem there is only a limited amount that local authorities can do to stop it. In this connection, I would salute outgoing Chief of Police Darryl Forte for his leadership in the years since the Ferguson tragedy. Chief Forte has had to walk the same fine line that every police chief in the country has had to walk in the last three years: On the one hand he has to reassure the black community that racist misconduct by his officers will not be tolerated; but on the other hand he has to reassure the men and women under his command that he will defend them against unfair charges of racism. The Chief has done a good job in walking this fine line and for that reason I feel that, bad as the city's crime problems are, he has kept them from getting a lot worse--and for that all of us in the KC-area should be appreciative of his time as Chief of Police.
The real burden of relieving the nation's crime problems lie with the national political class. Let me say that as a lifelong political scientist I am well aware that in contemporary US politics the ultimate "dirty word", on both sides of the aisle, is "compromise." But, if we are to stop the ongoing surge of violence in America we are going to have to agree to compromise. Specifically, we as a nation must agree that while black lives do indeed matter and that therefore racist misconduct by police officers cannot be tolerated, our Constitution contains explicit promises of Due Process and thus all cases in which police officers are accused of misconduct must be adjudicated with fairness and also that media coverage of such cases must be as fair and as non-sensationalistic as possible.