Detroit's Streets Need More Cops

In the aftermath of the death of a 7-year-old who hanged himself after being bullied at school, Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley checks in on the debate surrounding the number of police officers assigned to patrol the city's streets.

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In the aftermath of the death of a 7-year-old who hanged himself after being bullied at school, Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley checks in on the important debate surrounding the number of police officers assigned to patrol the city's streets.

We don't have six months.

We don't have six days.

We had eight homicides and 33 nonfatal shootings in five days.

We had a 7-year-old boy who hung himself from a bunk bed in his home after being bullied at school.

It is not enough to say the number of killings hasn't changed much since last year and has been about the same for the past few years. Why? Because there were more people in Detroit five years ago, one year ago, one month ago.

It is not enough to focus on other problems: challenged schools, discriminatory insurance rates, the fight over Rosa Parks' legacy, abandoned buildings that sit like predatory ghosts, reminding of what once was and hiding terrors that can be.

Not when children are dying, not when children are bombarded every day by reports of people dying all around them.

It doesn't take a criminal justice expert to grasp that Detroit needs more police on the streets -- where bad guys and good people and children can see them. A visible presence can be a powerful force.

So I asked Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. whether it was true, as City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown claimed in a memo to constituents last week, that only a third of the city's cops are assigned to patrol. 

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