Will Baltimore Revive Doubts of ‘Broken Windows’ Policing?

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The Justice Department has criticized a string of police departments nationwide for unfairly targeting blacks, but in its report on the Baltimore police, issued Wednesday, it used its most scathing language to date to denounce the zero-tolerance policing approach that has spread from New York to many departments big and small, says the New York Times. The broken-windows style of policing that New York evangelized with particular fervor during William J. Bratton’s first term as police commissioner is increasingly viewed more as a source of tensions with minority communities than as a successful crime-fighting strategy.

Focusing on small violations to prevent bigger crimes has grown into a cornerstone of policing over recent decades. But the Justice Department found that critical elements of that approach led to a breakdown in police-community relations in Baltimore and prompted a frenzy of unconstitutional policing aimed at African-Americans that was more about racking up statistics than reducing violent crime. Baltimore’s “pattern of making unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests arises from its longstanding reliance on ‘zero tolerance’ street enforcement, which encourages officers to make large numbers of stops, searches and arrests for minor, highly discretionary offenses,” the report said.

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