Given my recent reaction to police (mis)conduct in the Ryan Moats incident, I found that I enjoyed Ross Douthat's 'Conservatives, Crime Policy and the Black Vote' piece for THE ATLANTIC, particularly his thoughts on prison reform as an example of a shift in policy without a compromise of belief. He states:

My preferred approach to reform, for instance, would marry a reduced incarceration rate to a substantial increase in the police presence on America's streets, which if implemented clumsily (as most policy shifts are) could mean fewer black men behind bars, but more tragedies…

Neither in this article nor his post on prison reform detail his thoughts on this increased police presence, so I can't fully speak to their strengths and weaknesses, but I do wonder what Douthat would consider an un-clumsy implementation of a heightened police presence. Does a good plan—assuming of course his or any plan can be qualified thusly—enacted by inadequate personnel prove it to be clumsy?

Advertisement

Considering the current relationship between law enforcement and a good deal of the Black collective, it would seem that such a plan would require a police force dominated by ideal candidates: well-adjusted officers able to withstand the rigors of the job and receiving the support and resources necessary to maintain a level of professional excellence—a level often achieved only within the private sector, with sometimeshorrifying consequences. How can such an ideal situation come to pass given the reality in which many public servants toil—a reality that involves thankless tasks coupled with the regard, or lack thereof, given to individuals in those positions? For Douthat's reform to be even remotely possible, the perception of service would have to change drastically (an effort to which the president committed further this week). In many ways, teachers and police officers are the same boat, except their chances for physical injury vary by the day and only one can reasonably escape punishment for retaliation to injury. And it is those realities, dynamics and pressures that attract a particular kind of personality; some upright and others much less than that (often characterized by those dudes from high school whom you raise your eyebrows at when you hear they are police officers

In the America we live in, Douthat's plan, however loosely described, gives me cause to pause; its margin for error is razor-thin. It would most likely suffer from varying degrees of clumsiness, which, Douthat admits, would spell danger for both protector and protected.

—JONATHAN PITTS-WILEY