Saturday, January 08, 2011


Guest poster Ernest Evans is here with his annual report

"With Malice Toward None, With Charity Toward All"     By Dr. Ernest Evans

            "A Tale of Two Cities:  Crime in KCMO, 2007-2010"

            In 2010 crime patterns in KCMO continued the trends that had been the norm in 2008 and 2009.  Since 2007, there has been a slight but real decline in homicides in the white/asian/hispanic neighborhoods of the city--and a massive surge in homicides in the black neighborhoods of the city. Here are the statistics: In 2007 there were 94 homicides in KCMO--62 black and 32 other races.  In the following years here are the homicide statistics:  2008:  95 black/31 other races.  2009:  81 black/29 other races. 2010: 81 black/25 other races. And, alarming as these homicide figures are for the black neighborhoods of the city, I feel that they tell only part of the story of the near collapse of order in these neighborhoods:  Students of crime have often noted that there is a "counter-cyclical" movement of homicide rates to other crime stats:  When homicides go up sharply in certain neighborhoods, other forms of violence "fall"--they do not actually decrease, but people are so afraid of the power of the gangs and criminal elements that they stop reporting crimes.  This appears to have happened in the black neighborhoods of KCMO since 2007.  The converse is also true:  When homicides in certain neighborhoods fall significantly, other forms of crime "rise"--they rise because people feel safe enough to start reporting crimes to the police again. This past year in Detroit there was a 26% drop in homicides--not surprising, other forms of crime "increased" because people felt safer about reporting crimes. Another, quite alarming fact in crime in KCMO in 2010:  A further decline in the clearance rate of homicides:  These clearance rates had fallen in 2008 and 2009 to about 50%--in 2010 they further fell to about 40%. A massively disproportionate number of these unsolved homicides are black homicides--it is increasingly the case that in the black neighborhoods of KCMO one can get away with murder.

           "Why This Crime Surge in the Black Neighborhoods of KCMO?"

           Police officers in modern America are called upon to do a most politically incorrect thing: Regularly use force against racial minorities. And, as a veteran cop said to me once: "Doc, there is no such thing as a nice takedown--they all look terrible on camera."  Given these painful but accurate realities, if police forces are to have the morale and motivation to do their duties in black neighborhoods they have to have assurances that if accused of racism they will get some degree of fair media coverage and due process--when this is not the case, the phenomenon of "de-policing" results: Cops abandon efforts to fight black-on-black crime out of sheer self-survival--they know that if accused of racism they face at best summary dismissal at worst being brought up on criminal charges without even a pretense of due process.  There are many examples of such "depolicing":  The most terrible was in NYC in the period 1987-1993.  In New York in 1987-1989 there was the massively publicized Tawana Brawley incident--in 1989 a grand jury concluded that she had fabricated the charges she had made, but by then the damage was done:  The NYPD, feeling that if charged with racism they would not get treated fairly, abandoned efforts to fight black-on-black crime--violence in the black neighborhoods of the city exploded:  In 1992 there were 2250 homicides in NYC, mostly minorities--in contrast, in 2009 there were 435 homicides. In Cincinnati in the spring of 2001 there were several nights of rioting after a white cop shot a black teenager--for several weeks the city's politicos "shook the rafters" with calls for "swift justice" with "no legal niceties"--in 2000 there were 22 homicides in Cincinnati--in 2001 there were 42 and in 2002 there were 52--all of the increase being black victims;  the Cincinnati PD simply abandoned the black neighborhoods to the gangs and criminal elements and violence exploded.

         This brings us to the Sofia Salva case in KCMO.  In Feb. 2007 a video was released of two KCPD officers stopping her for outstanding warrants.  She was pregnant, and had a miscarriage the next day.  The two officers were dismissed and Ms. Salva got a large financial award from the city. Now, before I discuss the impact of this case on the city's crime problems, I feel in the interest of full disclosure that I should note my personal connection to this case. I am part of a Christian prayer group, at our meeting after the video was released we discussed the video ---a young woman said:  "Our duty as Christians is clear. We must reach out ministerially to all three people in the video--let us follow the example of the Amish in Pennsylvania who reached out to the family of the man who killed five of their children." We have done so ever since--we have regularly prayed for them, had Masses regularly celebrated for them, sent them "thinking of you" cards--and we bought each of them copies of the famous book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People." I make no apology for what I and my prayer group have done--we felt that this was what Jesus would have done in this incident. (I am sad to report that I wrote to several of the local Christian ministers who were very outspoken on the Salva tragedy--I told them what my prayer group was doing, and asked them, Christian-to-Christian, to do the same--for reasons of their own, they refused my request.)

      The issue of whether the two officers should have been dismissed can be debated, but I do not want to focus on that here. The problem for the city was that the two officers did not get even a pretense of fair media coverage or due process--and that fact had disasterous consequences for the black neighborhoods of the city. Now, in human terms I understand why, with a few honorable exceptions, most of the city's journalists did not cover the case with any fairness: Dan Rather said it best: "Fear haunts every newsroom in America." By this he meant fear of the Politically Correct Police of the left and the Patriotism Police of the right. Accusations of "racism" of "lack of patriotism" can destroy journalists careers--there are many examples of both in contemporary America. I also uunderstand why, at the Police Board hearing on April 11, 2008 Police Board members Terry Brady, Karl Zobrist and Mark Thompson did not conduct the hearing with even a pretense of fairness or objectivity; insteady, they spent four hours falling all over themselves to attack the two officers. This Police Board hearing was held in the midst of open threats of (at best) a convention boycott and (at worst) a race riot--the Board members were understandably worried about such threats. However, as Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman liked to say: "There is no such thing as a free lunch"--ie, there are consequences for actions. After the way the incident was covered in the media, and after the conduct of Zobrist, Thompson and Brady at that April 11, 2008 meeting, every cop in the KCPD was on notice: If charged with racism, you will be crucified by the media and summarily fired by a terrified Police Board.  A few days after the April 11 hearing I talked to a friend of mine who is also an expert on crime and violence. I said to him:  "There is an old French proverb that the only thing worse than a crime is a mistake. The behavior of those three commissioners was criminally unfair, but it was also an terrible, terrible mistake. The KCPD is going to abandon all serious efforts at fighting black-on-black crime out of sheer self-survival."

      The crime surge was not long in coming. August 2008 was the highest total for homicides in the history of KCMO--the significance of this fact is that in virtually every other city in the nation the record month for homicides was during the "crack wars" of the early 1990's--in this respect, KCMO sticks out like a sore thumb.  The already bad situation in the black neighborhoods of the city was made considerably worse by the reaction of much of the city's political class to the Plaza riot of April 2010 and the Waldo rapist case of May 2010--in both of these cases numerous politicians, journalists and community leaders charged the KCPD with racism. Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with making such charges per se--but when the cops already know that if charged with racism they get neither fair media coverage nor due process further charges of racism aggravate an already explosive situation. In the aftermath of these charges of police racism, the clearnce rate for homicides, which had already fallen considerably in 2008 and 2009, fell even further to a quite low 40%.

    Now, people may say that the crime surge since 2007 is due to other factors: The recession, lack of gun control, youth demographics, etc. The problem is that these are all national factors, and if these were the causes of the KCMO violence surge one would expect to see similar surges elsewhere in the nation. This has not been the case. In 2008 3/4's of the cities in the nation saw declines in their homicide totals--KCMO was one of the few that did not--its increase of 34% was the highest in the nation.  In 2009 NYC had the lowest number of homicides since statistics started being recorded in 1962.  Washington, DC had the lowest homicide total in 2009 since 1960--and it currently has a record rate of clearances.  In 1992 Los Angeles County had 1500 homicides--in 2009 they had 500.  KCMO now has a most unwanted national distinction: It is the only large city in the nation that has had more homicides in 2008, 2009 and 2010 than in 2007--elsewhere in the nation, most cities have seen major declines in their homicide totals since 2007.

       "Bad Moon Rising:  A Most Worrisome Development in Oakland"

       The crime situation in the black neighborhoods of KCMO is already quite serious, and a develpment in Oakland in Nov. 2010 may make this bad situation much, much worse. In Nov. 2010 there were widely-publicized riots in Oakland in response to the sentencing of a former police officer who shot and killed a black man on Jan. 1, 2009--the rioters felt he did not get enough time in jail. So, there is a very real danger that now  the men and women of the KCPD will preceive that "the stakes have been raised":  Next time if charged with racist misconduct they may well face not just summary dismissal without any pretense of due process but also being brought up on criminal charges by a city establishment terrified of a race riot--remember, in the Salva tragedy there were open threats of a riot in the officers were not dismissed.  In this environment, we may witness a breakdown of the last remnant of law and order in the black neighborhoods of the city as the KCPD abandons all efforts to fight black-on-black crime out of sheer self-survival.  Only time will tell, but I am deeply, deeply worried by one fact: In Dec. 2010 we had 11 homicides in KCMO--a high number for any month, but particularly for a traditionally low-homicide month like December.

       "Where Do We Go From Here?"

        In fighting crime in KCMO I am all for programs like Aim4Peace and for the courageous efforts of Nelson Hopkins, Sr. and William Kostar.  But, by themselves these efforts are not enough. We need to address the fundamental cause:  The failure to give fair media coverage and due process to KCPD officers accused of racism. Shortly after the video was released I consulted with a number of my friends who are also experts on crime and violence, and we drew up what we felt was a good compromise that would avoid the tragedies we have witnessed since the spring of 2008. We suggested that Ms. Salva get compensation--her miscarriage was a tragedy that no one consciously wanted to have happen or could have prevented, but she went through a frightful experience and deserved compensation. As for the two officers, we were well aware that regardless of the rights or wrongs of what they did that they had to leave the KCPD--they could not do their jobs after that video was endlessly replayed on the news. However, since there was no evidence that they had knowingly caused her miscarriage or that race had been a factor in this case, we recommended the following compromise: They get compensation for the Police Board's refusal to give them due process, the circumstances of their separation from the KCPD be handled in such a way that they could work in law enforcement in another city (if they desired) and some of the city's journalists agree to interview them to give them a fair opportunity to present their side of the story. (In this connection I am pleased to report that Ms. Elizabeth Alex of Channel 41 has already volunteered to do a fair interview with Off. Melody Spencer--the press and the bloggers were particularly savage on her because they felt as a woman she should have been more sensitive to Ms. Salva's situation. Ms. Alex's courageous refusal to be intimidated by the local versions of the Politically Correct Thought Police puts her in the tradtion of such courageous American journalists as the late Edward R. Murrow.)  A just, fair-minded compromise along these lines would, I feel, do a great deal to curb the ongoing explosion of violence in the black neighborhoods of KCMO.