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Module 6: Discussion

Police Under Scrutiny

By: Christina L. Lyons

Pub. Date: October 9, 2020
Access Date: December 9, 2021

Source URL: http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2020100900

©2021 CQ Press, An Imprint of SAGE Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
CQ Press is a registered trademark of Congressional Quarterly Inc.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Overview

Background

Current Situation

Outlook

Pro/Con

Chronology

Short Features

Bibliography

The Next Step

Contacts

Footnotes

About the Author

©2021 CQ Press, An Imprint of SAGE Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

Page 2 of 31
Police Under Scrutiny
CQ Researcher

Introduction
Police officers fatally shoot an average of nearly 1,000 people annually in the United States, and Blacks, Hispanics, the mentally ill and the poor
are more likely to be stopped by police than whites. Increasingly, violent encounters with minorities are being captured on camera and igniting
racial justice protests across the country. Many police unions and defense lawyers caution those viral images distort reality and say that the vast
majority of officers behave ethically. Lawmakers, criminal justice experts and civil rights leaders disagree on whether laws should restrict police use
of force, or if some law enforcement funding should be diverted to other community resources that could better handle citizens’ disagreements or
emergencies. Many Americans want police officers to be held more accountable — particularly in court — when they injure or kill a suspect. But
officers and legal experts say officers must assess threats quickly in order to protect themselves and others, and courts should give them the
benefit of the doubt.

Police watch after tear gas is fired into a crowd of Black Lives Matter
demonstrators on May 31 in Santa Monica, Calif. The nation experienced a
summer of protests over the killings of Black Americans by police. (Getty
Images/Mario Tama)

Overview
In Minneapolis, police reforms seemingly came fast.

Beginning in 2016, the city revised officer training; promoted Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo to be the city’s first Black police chief; held
community meetings; toughened department policy on the use of body cameras; and took other steps to address allegations that officers targeted
minority groups and used excessive force when making arrests.

“They were held up as a model of reform,” says David Muhammed, executive director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, a
research group based in Oakland, Calif.

A memorial in Minneapolis honors George Floyd, who died at the hands of
police on May 25. Experts say Minneapolis provides an example of how hard it

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Police Under Scrutiny
CQ Researcher

is to achieve police reform. (AFP/Getty Images/Kerem Yucel)

Then came the killing of George Floyd on May 25 and the national uproar that followed. On that day, four Minneapolis police officers attempted to
arrest Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old African American, after a market owner complained Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
Pinning him to the ground, officer Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the police force, pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck for more than eight
minutes as three other officers watched.

“Please, I can’t breathe,” Floyd cried out repeatedly. He died at the scene. An autopsy attributed his death to asphyxia, and the four officers, who
said Floyd had resisted arrest, were fired and face criminal charges.

Floyd’s death at the hands of Chauvin, a white officer who had faced at least 22 complaints or investigations during his time on the Minneapolis
force, shows how difficult it is to effect change, according to Muhammed and other criminal justice experts. Minneapolis’ experience “gives credence
to the idea that reform hasn’t worked,” Muhammed says.

The debate over how to improve policing has gained new urgency as racial justice protests by Black Lives Matter and other activist groups have
spread nationwide along with outrage over officers’ use of force against Blacks and Hispanics, especially those in poor communities, and against
citizens with mental illness.

Since July alone, protests — some violent — have erupted over police fatally shooting a Latino man in a parked car in Phoenix (July 4); pointing
guns at Black women and girls mistakenly suspected of riding in a stolen vehicle in Aurora, Colo. (Aug. 2); and shooting a Black man in the back in
Kenosha, Wis. (Aug. 23). In September, hundreds took to the streets in protest after a grand jury did not charge two white officers involved in the
fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American. The officers, with a warrant in hand, used a battering ram to enter her Louisville,
Ky., home to search for drugs on March 13.

Authorities’ sometimes violent response to protests in Portland, Ore., and other cities has further enraged many Americans.

Officers have fatally shot an average of nearly 1,000 citizens annually since 2015, according to a Washington Post database built with the help of
Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, Columbia. About half of the victims were white, but Blacks, who account
for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, were killed at more than twice the rate of whites. Hispanics also were killed at a higher rate than
whites.

“The number is so robust over the period of time they have been collecting data, it scares me,” Alpert says. Only about 1.8 percent of all police
interactions become violent, he says. Yet “any time police have to shoot a citizen, it is a huge problem.”

Alpert attributes much of the problem to officers’ poor ability to assess threats. His studies have found that “cops were more afraid of Black and
brown suspects because in their experience most of their arrests had been for Black or brown people.” Those officers tend to shoot because they
fear their lives are in jeopardy, Alpert says.

At the same time, many Black people have a deep, historical distrust of police, and this distrust is helping to fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.
“As a result of decades of brutality and harassment, minority communities often don’t look at the police in the same way white communities do,”
wrote Emanuel Cleaver III, senior pastor at St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Mo. “African Americans view police officers with
suspicion, seeing them as dangerous.”

For decades, researchers have called for a national database on police use of force to study trends and practices, but none yet exists. Still, since
a Chicago commission on race relations in 1922 found that police systemically targeted Blacks with undue force, many commissions have
documented similar behavior in other cities.

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Police Under Scrutiny
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“The vast majority of interactions don’t end up on camera, and can be the everyday harassment of citizens,” says Cardozo School of Law professor
Ekow N. Yankah. The encounters “can be humiliating, truly build resentment and fray the bonds between citizens and police.”

Defenders of law enforcement say that officers are not racist or uncaring. “Racial profiling is not happening,” says John Lutz, a retired 30-year
veteran of the California Highway Patrol in Los Angeles. Highway officers typically cannot see the skin color of a speeding driver in a car with tinted
windows, for example, he says.

Larry James, general counsel for the National Fraternal Order of Police, and other experts say viral images mistakenly lead citizens to believe that
all police abuse their powers, rather than just a few. James, a former director of public safety who is Black, says many officers recognize that
Chauvin’s behavior in the Floyd case was “just inhumane, to say the least.”

Many protesters and legal experts say law enforcement is over-policing, particularly in minority and poor neighborhoods, thereby increasing the
chances for violent encounters. Studies have found that police killings, as a percentage of the population, are greater among higher-poverty
individuals and that people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely than other citizens to be killed by police during a law enforcement
stop.

Since Floyd’s death, many protesters have campaigned to “defund” the police. The term has different meanings to different people. Some activists
advocate totally disbanding police departments, while others want to divert a portion of police budgets to other community resources that they say
can better address social or mental health problems.

“We’ve added … to police officers’ plates and asked them to become social workers,” says David MacMain, a defense attorney in West Chester,
Pa., who was a police officer. He chairs the governmental liability committee of the Defense Research Institute, an organization of civil defense
attorneys headquartered in Chicago. He supports moving resources to other services to ease police workloads.

President Trump has defended the police, denounced defunding proposals and denied that systemic racism is a problem. On July 22, he vowed
“we will never defund the police,” adding that well-funded departments are necessary because communities are “plagued by violent crime.”

According to the FBI, violent crime dropped 51 percent between 1993 and 2018, and preliminary statistics released in January show violent crime
decreased between the first half of 2018 and the first half of 2019. A New York Times analysis, however, found that murder is up about 21.8
percent in 36 cities this year from a year earlier, while other violent crimes have dropped.

Some experts blame law enforcement for escalating violence, particularly during recent protests. Police, National Guard units and federal agents in
some cities beat protesters, used tear gas and pepper spray, or fired rubber bullets or other nonlethal projectiles. The human rights group
Amnesty International found 125 incidents of police violence against protesters in 40 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, between May 26 and
June 5.

“The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had
taken to the streets to protest,” said Ernest Coverson, manager for Amnesty’s End Gun Violence Campaign.

Protesters and some criminal justice experts believe lawmakers need to restrain police officers’ use of aggressive tactics, such as using
chokeholds, obtaining warrants to break into a home without warning to search for drugs or other contraband (“no-knock warrants”) and detaining
and searching any citizen (“stop and frisk”). Many of those tactics are unnecessary, experts say, particularly if police learn how to de-escalate
conflict and work to gain trust within the community.

In recent years, communities have spent millions of dollars to equip officers with body cameras, to help provide accountability, but studies have not
found a major effect on police behavior. Rashawn Ray, a fellow with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, said the introduction of
body cameras and other changes over the years has “fallen short of holding police officers accountable.”

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Since January 2005, 119 nonfederal law enforcement officers have been arrested on murder or manslaughter charges as the result of an on-duty
shooting, says Philip Matthew Stinson, criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, who manages a database of criminal
cases against police. As of the end of August, just seven of those officers have been convicted of murder. Twelve were convicted of manslaughter
(an unlawful killing that did not involve serious intent to harm or kill); five of voluntary manslaughter (a “heat of passion” crime when someone was
provoked into acting); and six of involuntary manslaughter (unintentional homicide resulting from criminally negligent or reckless conduct),
according to Stinson. Appeals courts overturned four of the murder convictions.

At a pro-police rally outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion in St. Paul on
June 27 organized by Bikers for 45, a woman holds a sign expressing her
support for officers. Law enforcement’s defenders point out that police have
one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in the United States. (Getty
Images/Stephen Maturen)

Those asserting they are victims of police brutality often do not win when they go to court to seek damages. Some legal scholars say Congress
should restrict the practice, under a doctrine called qualified immunity, of protecting police officers from liability in citizen lawsuits. The Supreme
Court has frequently used the doctrine to rule that aggressive police behavior did not violate suspects’ constitutional rights.

Other experts warn that it is hard to judge police officers’ actions when they fear suspects can turn violent in seconds. “Part of the problem officers
face is that bad actors are more violent than they used to be,” says Chris Balch, an attorney in Atlanta who often represents police.

Police officers have one of the country’s most dangerous jobs: 108 died in 2018, up 14 percent from 2017, according to government statistics. Of
those 108, 49 died as a result of homicide and six as a result of suicide while on the job.

Given the dangers, police unions work hard to protect their officers from investigations and complaints. Unions “should not be faulted for excelling
in their duty to vigorously defend their membership,” said Allison Schaber, president of the Ramsey County Deputy Sheriff’s Union in Minnesota.
She added that police departments — not unions — are at fault for “keeping ‘bad apples.’”

But many scholars say unions block efforts to reform policing practices.

“Police unions are fundamentally different from other kinds of unions because a threat of a strike is so devastating for the political leadership that
they wield a tremendous amount of power,” says Michelle Phelps, a sociology professor at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and co-author of
Breaking the Pendulum: The Long Struggle Over Criminal Justice.

Some criminal justice experts say policing practices will not change until the nation addresses racism embedded in American culture. “We need to
reckon with our history of racial injustice,” said civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson.

As tensions rise over aggressive policing tactics and Black Lives Matter protests, here are some questions that activists, civil libertarians, police
union officials and others are debating:

Should local governments reduce police funding?

Amid protesters’ demands to defund the police, the Minneapolis City Council moved this summer to disband its police force and create a
Department of Community Safety and Violence that, legally, would not have to include police officers. The city’s charter commission, however, said
the plan was flawed and needed further study.

The University of Minnesota’s Phelps says disbanding police departments is a compelling option. “The slow, piecemeal change that is vigorously
resisted by the police unions is not going to get us in any reasonable time frame to the place where we want to be,” she says.

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Many defunding advocates cite Camden, N.J., as a success story. The city disbanded its police department and fired all officers in 2013 amid a
budget shortfall and rising homicides. A newly created county department instructed its officers to decrease tickets and arrests and build
relationships with citizens in Camden, where 40 percent of residents live below the poverty line. Violent crimes decreased 38 percent by 2018.

Protesters urge cities to defund the police during a Sept. 23 march in Chicago.
Reformers disagree on what defunding means: Some advocate disbanding
police departments, while others want to reduce police budgets. (Getty
Images/Natasha Moustache)

But Phelps and others say Camden’s approach is not an ideal model. Initially the new force practiced aggressive policing strategies that resulted in
high numbers of citations and more excessive-force complaints, said Brendan McQaude, assistant professor of criminology at the University of
Southern Maine. Intervention from the NAACP and local activists ultimately helped resolve the problems, but it took years of work.

Many experts also say an entire police force should not be blamed for the actions of a few officers. “Probably less than 1 percent of officers I
represent are bad people,” says defense attorney MacMain. “Fundamentally, most people who go into law enforcement are decent and want to do
well.”

Many activists want to divert some police funding to other agencies or community groups that they say could better address noncriminal calls or
issues involving the mentally ill. A reduced law enforcement footprint would also mean fewer police interactions with the public and fewer
opportunities for violent encounters, they say.

Local spending on police has increased an average of 1.2 percent annually over the past 40 years, according to data collected by the Lincoln
Institute of Land Policy, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Mass.

A recent review by The Associated Press found that the defunding campaign has had only a modest effect on police budgets. The Portland City
Council in June cut its police budget by 30 percent, or $15 million, by eliminating officers who work in schools, investigate gun violence or patrol the
public transit system. Activists wanted $50 million cut.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slashed $1 billion from the city’s 2020 $6 billion operating budget for the police department, which has about
36,000 uniformed officers. Critics of the department said the city should have reduced the budget further in order to end “excessive policing.”

But Muhammed of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform says he worries some cities are cutting budgets too rashly. “There must be
much more thoughtful, structured reallocation and thoughtful, structured reduction of the law footprints,” he says.

Muhammed says an “obvious first step” would be to not respond to nonviolent, noncriminal calls, which account for about 30 percent of all calls to
the police department. In Oakland, 2,000 calls are made to 911 daily. Many of the callers “just want a resolution to a problem,” such as screaming
or a neighbor’s late-night party, he says.

In recent decades, the number of police officers rose as law enforcement duties expanded to include responding to mental health crises and
monitoring schools, criminal justice experts say. Local police departments employed about 470,000 officers in 2016, an 11 percent increase since
1997. National data on how police spend their time is scarce, but a 2019 survey found about one-fifth of law enforcement staff time and 10 percent
of agencies’ budgets in 2017 were spent responding to and transporting people with mental illness.

Many experts agree cities should spend more time and money on the root causes of crime, such as poverty, homelessness and substance abuse.

Phelps says police funds could be diverted to house people, provide a stipend to young men at risk of becoming perpetrators or victims of crime, or
hire “violence interrupters” who can intervene in conflicts between citizens and avoid deadly encounters.

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Police Under Scrutiny
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A New York City police officer put
Eric Garner in a chokehold in 2014,
leading to his death. Some experts
say bans against such aggressive
police tactics are ineffective without
other changes, such as improved
training. (Screenshot)

Aqeela Sherrills, an activist who helped negotiate a peace treaty between rival Los Angeles gangs in 1992 and has launched several criminal
justice reform groups, says George Floyd’s alleged use of counterfeit money “was a low-level nonviolent offense that police shouldn’t even be
called for. Community-based intervention should be called.”

But some officers and experts warn about the dangers of insufficient staff to handle crime. Retired California Highway Patrol officer Lutz questions
whether communities have sufficient resources to handle the mentally ill. With few mental health hospitals, the only place to bring the mentally ill is
often jail, he says.

Attorney Balch raises similar concerns. “I don’t know that social workers could help in drug cases,” he says, adding that perhaps they could help
officers calm an individual with mental illness. “But we don’t have data on that point,” he says.

MacMain says officers’ responsibilities should be reduced, but adds that jurisdictions should consider increasing police salaries in order to recruit
and retain good candidates. Lutz agrees. “I didn’t get paid enough to get shot at,” he says.

Patrick Yoes, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said reforms need to be made, but that some local agencies “truly get it” and
already “have the correct mixture of services in support in the community because they built that trust.” He did not specify which.

The evidence “does not support the charge that biased police are systematically killing Black Americans in fatal shootings,” said Heather Mac
Donald, a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and author of The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone
Less Safe. “Ideally officers would never need to take anyone’s life. But the data on police killings doesn’t support reducing or abolishing law
enforcement.”

Would bans on aggressive police tactics reduce the use of deadly force?

In 2019, a California law set a tougher standard on police use of deadly force. Previously, under an 1872 law, officers could use deadly force if it
was deemed “reasonable.” The new law says officers can use such force only if it is “necessary” to protect against an imminent threat. The law also
requires courts to consider how an officer behaved before he or she used deadly force.

The law came in the wake of protests over the Sacramento County district attorney’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against two
Sacramento police officers who in 2018 fatally shot Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old unarmed Black man. The district attorney said her decision was
based on the existing state law.

Many experts believe California’s new law will help reduce deadly police shootings, of which the state had 146 in 2018. Seattle had earlier changed
its use of force policy, which resembles California’s, to comply with a 2012 consent decree it signed after the U.S. Department of Justice found “a
pattern or practice of constitutional violations regarding the use of force that result from structural problems, as well as serious concerns about
biased policing.” Seattle police have since reduced the use of moderate and lethal force by 60 percent, according to a court-appointed monitor of
the department.

But DeWitt Lacy, a civil rights attorney in Los Angeles, said that under the 2019 California law, police can still argue their behavior was necessary
and that the law does not require police to “engage in de-escalating tactics and operate more prudently.”

Former police officer MacMain says many statutes, as well as police department policies, can be vague. And
current federal law, interpreted according to the constitutional protection for citizens against “unreasonable
searches and seizures,” still says officers may use force that is “reasonable.” But what is “reasonable is a
gut feel,” he says. “It’s subjective, based on life experiences.” So lawyers still will have difficulty proving
excessive force.

Several jurisdictions are moving to bar specific policing tactics, in hopes of preventing fatal encounters. In
Louisville, officials banned the use of “no-knock warrants” like the one police used to charge into Breonna
Taylor’s home. Taylor was killed when police opened fire after her boyfriend fired one shot at the officers.
Her boyfriend later told police he thought he was shooting at an intruder.

The Oregon Legislature in August passed a measure barring the police use of chokeholds except for self-
defense. “It’s long past time we disallowed officers from using chokeholds,” said the bill’s sponsor, state
Democratic Sen. James Manning. “It’s wrong and it can be lethal. It is not a tool to de-escalate. It’s a tool to
take a life.”

But some experts argue that laws or department policies by themselves are not effective in preventing
officers from using aggressive techniques. In 1993, the New York City Police Department banned the use of
chokeholds by officers except when an officer’s life is in danger. More than two decades later, in July 2014,
an officer put Eric Garner, an African American suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes, in a chokehold,
killing him. A grand jury did not indict the officer.

“In the end, not any one rule” is going to change police behavior, law professor Yankah says. Instead, not
only should training improve but so should recruitment. “We know we are getting people who are
predisposed to be aggressive,” he says.

The University of South Carolina’s Alpert says the idea that stronger use of force statutes will improve police
behavior is “a pipe dream … because it’s going to take years to filter down to cops and their behavior.”

“There are 18,000 police departments in America and not everyone gets the same quality training,” particularly on how to assess threats, he says.

James, the National Fraternal Order of Police counsel, says policies that restrict certain tactics can be effective if they are enforced and officers are
trained. “If you tell police officers the rules, you consistently and indiscriminately enforce them, then I think you begin to change behavior,” he says.

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Police Under Scrutiny
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Some say police unions block changes to officers’ behavior, regardless of the rules. At the start of its reform process, Minneapolis hired as its
police chief Arradondo, a well-respected Black officer, the University of Minnesota’s Phelps says. But the “police union fought tooth and nail”
against reforms, she says. When the mayor banned warrior-style training — a tactic that teaches officers to believe threats are always present —
union President Bob Kroll announced the union would form its own class for anyone who wanted the training.

In Maryland, the Legislature in 1973 passed a Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights that, for a set time period, shields officers from questioning
before they must cooperate with investigators. In 2015, then-Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the bill of rights impeded
investigations of officers blamed for Freddie Gray’s death. Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died in the officers’ custody after they arrested him for
carrying an illegal switchblade.

Still, many in law enforcement say certain tactics are necessary to control a suspect.

“I’m not a proponent of taking all the tools away. You have to remember there are still bad people in the world,” says Shelby Moffatt, a criminal
justice professor at Sacramento State University in California and a former Sacramento police officer who is Black. “But we also have some [police
officers] who don’t know how to respond when they see somebody like me.”

Should Congress make it easier for police officers to be held accountable in court?

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves said in August that he believed the only crime that Clarence Jamison committed was “driving a Mercedes
convertible” whi

Module 6: Discussion

PADM 7224
1

MODULE

Seminar in Urban Problems

PADM 7224

University of Memphis
Department of Public &

Nonprofit Administration

Euchner & McGovern (2003)
Chapter 6 – Crime and the

Levels of Order

6

PADM 7224
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Crime and the Levels of Order

 Crime – an act of commission or omission
that violates a community’s formal rules of
behavior

 “Formal rules for behavior” are shaped by
societal values and strategies (such as
policing) societies pursue in ensuring those
values are upheld

 “Formal rules for behavioral” are NOT
universal or fixed – they change based on
change in societal values
 Example – recent surge in decriminalization of

marijuana at the state/local level

PADM 7224
3

Crime and the Levels of Order

 “Defining crime produces a constant
tension in which people learn the limits of
their past understandings as new situations
and understandings arise.” (p. 240)

 Crime is typically grouped as:
 Crime against persons, including violent (e.g.,

robbery, rape) and non-violent (e.g., violation of
contract)

 Crimes against property (e.g., theft, vandalism)
 Crimes again society (e.g., tax evasion,

disorderly conduct)

PADM 7224
4

The Levels of Crime

 Crime is prevalent in the U.S., particularly in
cities, but typically occurs in waves – example,
crime rose in 1960s/70s, dropped in early 1980s,
rose in late 1980s, dropped in 1990s

 Violent crime has been decreasing since 2017
but the U.S. murder rate (and violent crime in
general) is historically higher than other
countries

 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) – primary
source for data on crime prevalence

PADM 7224
5

The Levels of Crime

 Crime – both organized and unorganized –
has substantial economic impacts for a
society
 National estimates for victimization costs are in

hundreds of billions of dollar, between 2 and 6
percent of national GDP

 Crime can be organized – for example, FBI
identifies roughly 33,000 violent street gangs,
motorcycle gangs, and prison gangs

 Crime can be unorganized – for example,
individuals committing driving under the
influence

PADM 7224
6

The Levels of Crime

 Crime is political
 Political campaigns often increase public fears of

crime
 Media exposure often increases public fears of

crime
 Political candidates historically do not want to

appear “soft” on crime

 “Minority communities, disproportionately
located in cities, report a higher-than-
average fear of crime.” (p. 245)

PADM 7224
7

The Causes of Crime

 Cause of crime is often viewed at:
 Micro/individual level – typical view of

Conservatives, “An individual person is
responsible for committing a crime”

 Macro/environmental level – typical view of
Liberals, “An individual person’s environment
is responsible for causing a person to
commit a crime”

 To look at any one level is simplistic and
does not consider all factors

PADM 7224
8

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the Individual

 Crime occurs when people lack the feeling
of responsibility to assist in maintaining the
order of society in which they live – acts of
both commission (committing a crime) and
omission (looking the other way)

 Calculated cost-benefit analysis to commit a
crime is not always the case
 “The ‘thicker’ the network of institutions,

routines, and informal relationships in a
community, the greater chance that a person
will rationally decide to abide by the
community’s codes.” (p. 24)

PADM 7224
9

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the Individual

 Gender and age are the demographic
variables that account most for crime –
young males commit the most crimes

 Cities typically have a higher rate of crime
than suburban and nonmetropolitan areas

 Genetic disposition to crime?
 “Probably the best approach to the issue is to

understand that nature and nurture interact in
complex ways, and that humane and smart
public policy can make the best of whatever
physical traits we have.” (p. 253)

 Link between literacy and incarceration

PADM 7224
10

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the Family

 Conservatives and Liberals both agree that the
family is a strong factor in causing and preventing
criminal behavior

 Family environment is pivotal in child development
 Children’s experience of domestic abuse and criminality:

“Most children who experience domestic violence and
abuse don’t go on to perpetrate it in adult life. Even given
this, there is a well-documented correlation between
various experiences of victimization and offending
behavior (not solely in terms of experiences of domestic
abuse). This correlation is generally referred to as a
‘victim-offender overlap’ in criminology and victimology.”

 Conservative and Liberals DON’T agree on what
factors (e.g., individual choice, poverty, lack of life
skills) cause families to behave dysfunctionally

PADM 7224
11

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the Community

 Generally, “safe and pleasant” communities
have a strong impact on limiting
dysfunctional (i.e., criminal) behavior –
one’s environment impacts one’s behavior
 Classic 1973 Zimbardo Prison Experiment

 Application of broken windows theory to
1990s policing led to 2000s “stop and frisk”
and discriminatory policing – How A Theory
Of Crime And Policing Was Born, And Went
Terribly Wrong

PADM 7224
12

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the Community

 Guns, community, and homicide
 Research on link between availability of guns

and homicide
 BBC News (2021) – America’s gun culture in

charts

PADM 7224
13

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of Society

 How does poverty relate to crime?
 Limited economic and educational

opportunities and sense of despair lead to
crime – “crime is my best alternative”

 Link between unemployment and crime
 Lower wages (or no wages at all) makes

crime appear as a better payoff
 Link between poverty, inequality, and crime

PADM 7224
14

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of Society

 How does inequality relate to crime?
 Disproportionate levels of unemployment and

poverty in Black and Hispanic populations –
disproportionate levels of Black and Hispanic
involvement throughout the criminal justice
process

 Blacks are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate
5 times that of Whites, some states up to 10
times

 Beyond state prisons, racial disparities are found
throughout the criminal justice process –
arrests, local jails, sentencing, etc.

PADM 7224
15

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of Society

 “Relative deprivation” – being at the low
end of high levels of inequality in society
can have an aggravating effect

 Poverty and social isolation in society can
easily perpetuated in inner-city
environments, leading to crime

 Does moving people to different
communities have an impact?
 Evaluating HUD’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO)

Program from 1994-2010

PADM 7224
16

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the System

 “The U.S. criminal justice system is not a
coherent, unified structure. The justice
system is instead a confederation of
semiautonomous operations” (p. 265)

 Criminal Justice System Flowchart

PADM 7224
17

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the System

 Interactions of police with the citizens they are
bound to protect is a vastly influential in the
success of the system

 Human Rights Watch 1998 report on police
abuse in 14 large U.S. cities

 Police violence is disproportionately applied to
non-white people

 Vigilance against police brutality:
 Helps prevents undermining of legitimacy of police
 Improves policing effectiveness
 Independent oversight of police departments –

around 150 civilian oversight agencies in the U.S.

PADM 7224
18

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the System

 Elected prosecutors generally have substantial
power and discretion in the system, such as in bail,
plea bargaining, charging (although varies by
jurisdiction)
 ACLU – power of prosecutors to end mass incarceration
 U.S. Department of Justice – Principles of Federal

Prosecution
 Rights of criminal defendants have been established

and restricted through series of Supreme Court
decisions beginning in the 1960s

 Mandatory sentencing laws such as mandatory
minimums and “three strike” laws have contributed
to mass incarceration

PADM 7224
19

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the System

 Prisons – considered primary deterrent for crime,
yet prison life and conditions vary substantially from
prison to prison, largely unpleasant at the least
 Some of the worst prisons – Department of Justice

ongoing concern with Alabama state prisons
 Whole picture of prisons in U.S. – Incarceration in the

U.S.: The Big Picture
 U.S. in the world leader in incarceration

 Ongoing debate between prison as deterrent vs.
prison as rehabilitation

 Bureau of Justice Statistics (2018) – state prisoner
recidivism between 2005-2014 remains grim with
68% rearrested in 3 years, 79% within 6 years, 83%
within 9 years

PADM 7224
20

The Causes of Crime:
The Level of the System

“ ‘As sentencing laws get tougher and
punishment proposals get more vicious,

there’s a tendency toward a great wave of
dehumanization of inmates.’ Such a

dehumanization is not only problematic
from a human rights standpoint but also
feeds the spiral of violence that hurts the

larger community.”
(p. 275)

PADM 7224
21

The Causes of Crime:
Policy Responses to Crime

 Develop programs that address root
causes – education, job skills, behavioral
health (addiction and mental health)

 Utilize private security
 The Guardian (2017) – “According to

Department of Labor statistics, there are
more than 1.1 million private security guards
in the US – compared with about 660,000
police and sheriff’s officers.”

 Enables more community policing? Or
contributes to inequality in safety?

PADM 7224
22

The Causes of Crime:
Policy Responses to Crime

 Empower communities and community
organizations (such as block
associations) to take proactive action
towards maintaining order in
collaboration with police

 Shift the approach in policing
 “Night-watchman” vs. “Legalistic cop” vs.

“Service (community) cop”
 Data-driven policing coupled with

community policing

PADM 7224
23

The Causes of Crime:
Policy Responses to Crime

 Revisit errors of proportionality in
sentencing (such as mandatory minimums,
three-strikes laws)

 Revisit use of deterrence – not all acts of
crime are rationally calculated in relation to
perceptions of deterrence

 Revisit “corrections” – how does the prison
system prepare individuals for reentry into
society

 Addressing organized crime activity in cities
requires partnering with jurisdictions
outside of the city

PADM 7224
24

The Causes of Crime:
Policy Responses to Crime

 Additional source for policy responses to
crime in cities: National League of Cities,
Public Safety & Crime Prevention Federal
Advocacy Committee (2020). Public
Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and
Resolutions

  • Euchner & McGovern (2003)�Chapter 6 – Crime and the Levels of Order
  • Crime and the Levels of Order
  • Crime and the Levels of Order
  • The Levels of Crime
  • The Levels of Crime
  • The Levels of Crime
  • The Causes of Crime
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the Individual
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the Individual
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the Family
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the Community
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the Community
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of Society
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of Society
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of Society
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the System
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the System
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the System
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the System
  • The Causes of Crime:�The Level of the System
  • The Causes of Crime:�Policy Responses to Crime
  • The Causes of Crime:�Policy Responses to Crime
  • The Causes of Crime:�Policy Responses to Crime
  • The Causes of Crime:�Policy Responses to Crime

Module 6: Discussion

 Stories told through news media and documentary films continually illustrate the inequities in the criminal justice system. In general, these inequities fall along race and class lines. Considering the multiple components of the system (i.e., law enforcement, the courts, and prisons), where are the greatest injustices found? And what should be done (i.e., policies implemented) to change it? Explain your response and use evidence and examples from the readings and film to support your argument.