I haven't checked back to compare his past talk, but it feels like LAPD Chief William Bratton has been cranking up the rhetoric. In his latest monthly missive on the state of the city, he takes on "researchers, academics, and sociologists" who believe that crime waves have socio-economic roots and dismisses their "sterile and controlled academic and research environments." He's got a good point that cops matter — a lot — but isn't going after the eggheads just a little Gatesian?
I recently delivered a keynote speech at the annual National Institute of Justice Conference in Washington, DC. This gave me a chance to speak frankly about my beliefs on the factors involved in controlling and reducing crime, and my observations regarding the relationship between the practitioners—the cops on the street—and the researchers, academics, and sociologists.
Because the audience included researchers and social scientists, as well as police professionals, I challenged them all to begin working together in a more synergistic manner than in the antagonistic manner we have shared in the past. But the main point that I wanted to make was that cops count, and that cops are the most essential component of the equation when it comes to fighting and reducing crime.
In my remarks I spoke about the importance of debate and the exchange of opposing ideas. But I made it clear that I stop short when I hear the contentious opinion, commonly put forth by researchers, that fluctuations in crime are due to socioeconomic factors, such as demographics and economic disparity, while dismissing the role of police officers in crime prevention and reduction.
The City of Los Angeles is now experiencing its lowest crime numbers in 50 years, earning L.A. the title of second safest large city in the nation. That was not caused by some demographic or socioeconomic glitch or downward trend. It was in direct response to the hard work of the men and women of the LAPD.
He offers no hard evidence for that, and even contradicts it slightly when he notes that L.A. remains vastly underpoliced — yet still insists the department is responsible for the drop in crime. Not any of the demographic or economic influences that are nudging down crime other places are a factor here? Anyway, today's year-to-date crime stats are not as rosy. Since robberies are up so much, overall violent crime is down just 1.2% — not counting last weekend's surge in murders. As noted in the Morning Buzz, murder rates are up sharply in the Valley and Westside. Using the chief's logic, is the resurgence of crime there the result of insufficient police work? That seems too simple.
More chief after the jump:
Getting to the issue of causes, I believe strongly that the single most important cause of crime is human behavior. One thing that I have learned and strongly advocate is that the police, with proper resources and appropriate direction, can control behavior to such a degree that it will change behavior. I have seen nothing in the way of hard evidence to dissuade me from the simple truth that we are the difference.
Cops count, as they are the essential catalysts in the reduction and prevention of crime. On a daily basis, Los Angeles police officers are making the difference, out there in a real world that is far removed from sterile and controlled academic and research environments. Cops are the difference, they count, and no one, regardless of their academic credentials, should attempt to persuade anyone otherwise.
Bratton also cites this month's LAPD Medal of Valor winners:
Sergeant Hector Feliciano
Detective Richard Record
Officer Christopher Vasquez
Officer Carlos Figueroa
Officer Matthew Cundiff
Officer Mario Cardona
Officer Carlos Ocegueda
Officer Osvaldo Delgadillo
Officer Ralph Camarillo
Officer Laurissa Hulsebus
Officer Abel Muñoz
Officer Edwin Marron
Officer Mark Mireles
For Officer Mireles, this will be the second time he has received this distinguished honor. If you know any of these officers, please make the effort to congratulate them on their achievement. These outstanding officers are representative of all of the dedicated men and women of this Department and representative of the type of officers we want to hire, as policing today requires smart, aggressive, and creative men and women who police with measured action, consistently, compassionately, and constitutionally. Cops count, and they do make the difference when it comes to making LA a safer city.