A trend in some cities toward “enlightened policing” gets praise from New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. Wielding a police department like a blunt instrument is counterproductive, he says. To bring crime down and keep it down, cops have to be smarter. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has long embraced this approach. So has Bill Bratton, first in New York and now in Los Angeles. Dean Esserman is doing interesting things in Providence, R.I., and Garry McCarthy is trying to haul Newark, at long last, out of the dark ages of policing.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. have been murdered. Each year hundreds of thousands of criminals are released from prison into communities with few jobs and almost no support services for them. These are people with advanced degrees in criminality. Last week, dozens of police chiefs met in Chicago to assess crime trends. They are trying to understand why there has been a surge in homicides in big cities in Florida, and in Baltimore, Washington, and Oakland, at the same time that there have been substantial decreases in places like Los Angeles, Houston, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and Nashville. “Some cities are showing dramatic increases and some are showing dramatic decreases,” said Chuck Wexler, director of the forum, which convened the Chicago meeting. “We're almost like epidemiologists. We're trying to figure out why.”