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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Neighborhood and the City The Village and The Town

Last night, while the awful news about Ferguson was being broadcast I was researching the "Broken Windows" theory. Reading the original research and articles on the subject in the Atlantic's archives [see] and I saw the same pattern of dysfunction and poor constitution of our Democracy in the way that the information had been applied. I had a "eureka moment" even as I was hearing the anguished cries of youths who feel trapped in neighborhoods where they are treated as colonies of the central government. The Atlantic article was talking about Ferguson! Our neglected towns, villages, countryside and cities all suffer from "broken windows", disinvestment, neglect. And people reacting badly to that sense of despair and abandonment. As the author noted:

"one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing. (It has always been fun.)"

The article was suggesting something that local Police Departments are incapable of meeting. Why? Because they aren't local enough. And also why? Because general governments at the local level can't afford to provide the necessary services, and it requires a community to do so completely. As with everything else in our country what is happening in Ferguson's black neighborhoods and also in Ferguson's white neighborhoods, isn't a breakdown in democracy from too little democracy but a breakdown from a failure to replicate republican principles intelligently and fairly. The article states it:

"From the earliest days of the nation, the police function was seen primarily as that of a night watchman: to maintain order against the chief threats to order—fire, wild animals, and disreputable behavior."[Atlantic article]

We used to do it through informal Government agencies, but that was cludgy. Now we don't do it at all for our poor neighborhoods while the rich hire guards and put gates at the entrance of their neighborhoods.

"For centuries, the role of the police as watchmen was judged primarily not in terms of its compliance with appropriate procedures but rather in terms of its attaining a desired objective. The objective was order, an inherently ambiguous term but a condition that people in a given community recognized when they saw it. The means were the same as those the community itself would employ, if its members were sufficiently determined, courageous, and authoritative" [Atlantic article]

The Need for a Security Militia and Volunteerism

It's not like the need hasn't been identified. The Atlantic Article talks at length about the kinds of policing necessary to establish neighborhood order and create healthy neighborhoods. And he is describing a less professional and more volunteer police force. More street beat than police cruiser. More "Guardian Angels" than Officer Francis Muldoon. They put it in historic terms talking about "public order" versus solving crimes. The folks who created the Guardian Angels had hit on the problem. We need to have local law enforcement of local informal ordinances at a level below that of the general government.

I don't propose a return to older policing models. I have something larger in mind, starting with the creation of a local reserve police constabulary. The Atlantic Article talked about what happened when DC implemented Foot patrols:

"Five years after the program started, the Police Foundation, in Washington, D.C., published an evaluation of the foot-patrol project. Based on its analysis of a carefully controlled experiment carried out chiefly in Newark, the foundation concluded, to the surprise of hardly anyone, that foot patrol had not reduced crime rates. But residents of the foot patrolled neighborhoods seemed to feel more secure than persons in other areas, tended to believe that crime had been reduced, and seemed to take fewer steps to protect themselves from crime (staying at home with the doors locked, for example). Moreover, citizens in the foot-patrol areas had a more favorable opinion of the police than did those living elsewhere. And officers walking beats had higher morale, greater job satisfaction, and a more favorable attitude toward citizens in their neighborhoods than did officers assigned to patrol cars"

The beat officers weren't effective in arresting people. That was the job of detectives and they needed help from backup in cruisers to deal with major crimes or chase down infractions. But what they could do was to establish and maintain local order. The Atlantic article goes at lengths to envision what this order should look like and I talked about this yesterday but what we need are local constabulary. Local officers who can act as neighborhood watchmen, do patrols, and who have the "real police" as backups. We already have this in some suburbs. Trayvon was murdered by such a local constable. But you see that indicates why this needs to be part of a police reserve function. Zimmerman was a poorly trained reserve with no local authority. A young man like Trayvon saw him and he had no local authority, he probably saw him as some stupid punk sticking his nose in other people's business. A local constabulary would be as well trained as the police. Just volunteer, auxiliary and local.

But as the incident with Trayvon last year illustrated. Neighborhood watches aren't enough. The old method of policing where police wore police, judge and executioner hats at the same time was no more just than current policing. The Atlantic Article also notes that the old constables who were in place before "modern" professional policing were often brutal and the rules varied from neighborhood to neighborhood in arbitrary ways. What I'm talking about is applying the principles of replication and subsidiarism. The role of a beat cop is necessary to neighborhoods and local governance. But that should be the province of local governors and neighborhoods. Not the general government. The city "general government" should be there to support local government and to intervene when locals are over their heads, not as first response. The beat cop should be a local militia function not a citywide function. But the local militia should be organized as Hamilton and the constitution suggest:

"provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress"

We need a Judicial Militia, organized on constitutional principles. At the local level we need constables, but we also need volunteer barristers, local justices who can act as either impromptu judges or mediate disputes. No person should combine in their person "judge, jury and executioner" -- that is a constitutional principle that is behind separation of powers. If Ferguson, instead of having a large, scared and "professional" police force who never leave their cars except when arresting someone, had neighborhood watchmen and proctors or informal justices (this is the principle of volunteerism, one volunteers, is trained at State Level and maybe Federal Level, and then released into the local reserves) backed by local informal legislatures each headed by a councilman from that subdivision -- we'd see a different kind of law enforcement and more community participation. We also need a health and ER militia and to bring back volunteer fire and rescue companies, but that is for another days argument. The "Guardian Angels" were on the right path. Instead of the professionals fearing them and marginalizing them we should train them, pay them for "such part as employed" in Governing, and set them up as an auxilliary and adjunct to local police forces.

I have to keep this post short as I want people to read it. So I'll stop now, but we have to reestablish the primary importance and separate role of neighborhoods in governing cities, towns and the country.

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