Jill Leovy’s great book Ghettoside

The link below will take you to a discussion of Jill Leovy’s book Ghettoside. Leovy knows from experience–she covered crime for the Los Angeles Times for many years–that poor minority communities are too often harshly policed. But she also laments that the majority of poor minority residents of these communities, who are law-abiding souls just trying to live life like the rest of us, must live among murderers and other predators, and that our society has been unable to provide them with something so basic to a civilized society as personal security. (In Chicago last year, the police department’s clearance rate for homicides fell to about 17%. See, “Chicago Police Solve 1 in every 20 Shootings: Here are some reasons why that is so low,” Chicago Tribune, August 8, 2018.) Leovy argues that the alienation in many poor black communities today is as much a result of under-policing as over-policing.

ghetttosidedetective john skaggsblack and white

Pictured: John Skaggs, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD who retired in 2017. He is a central character in Ghettoside. Staffing police departments with more detectives, and more detectives like John Skaggs, would go a long way towards providing security to people living in impoverished communities, as would a return to a “to serve and protect” ethos, rather than one of “us versus them.”

Leovy documents the bona fide fear of physical harm that people have in these communities if they agree to testify in court. Perhaps a good place to begin to rebuild trust of the police in these communities is for the state to expend the resources to consistently protect potential witnesses. Wouldn’t doing so be an opportunity to find some mutual understanding and common ground among Blue Lives and Black Lives supporters?

Both the harsh policing and the mortal danger to the residents of the communities Leovy describes are shameful. But so is the fact that so many Americans only seem to see one or the other of these two, very related problems.

black lives matter     blue lives matter

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