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‘Half the Police Force Quit. Crime Dropped’

August 02, 2023

“It’s no coincidence that the cities we most associate with violence also have long and documented histories of police abuse,” writes Quattrone Center Journalism Fellow Radley Balko.

At The New York Times, Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice Journalism Fellow Radley Balko penned “Half the Police Force Quit. Crime Dropped.”

An independent writer and investigative journalist, Balko was formerly an opinion journalist for The Washington Post where he specialized in commentary and longform reporting on civil liberties and the criminal justice system. His work has been cited twice in U.S. Supreme Court opinions, by the Mississippi Supreme Court, and by three federal appeals courts. His reporting has contributed to the release of one man from death row, and another from a life sentence, and led to substantive reforms in St. Louis County, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; and the state of Mississippi.

From The New York Times:

In a staggering report last month, the Department of Justice documented pervasive abuse, illegal use of force, racial bias and systemic dysfunction in the Minneapolis Police Department. City police officers engaged in brutality or made racist comments, even as a department investigator rode along in a patrol car. Complaints about police abuse were often slow-walked or dismissed without investigation. And after George Floyd’s death, instead of ending the policy of racial profiling, the police just buried the evidence.

Radley Balko, Quattrone Center Journalism Fellow Radley Balko, Quattrone Center Journalism FellowThe Minneapolis report was shocking, but it wasn’t surprising. It doesn’t read much differently from recent Justice Department reports about the police departments in Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, Albuquerque, New Orleans, Ferguson, Mo., or any of three recent reports from various sources about Minneapolis, from 2003, 2015 and 2016.

Amid spiking nationwide homicide rates in 2020 and 2021 and a continuing shortage of police officers, many in law enforcement have pointed to investigations like these — along with “defund the police”-style activism — as the problem. With all the criticism they are weathering, the argument goes, officers are so hemmed in, they can no longer do their job right; eventually they quit, defeated and demoralized. Fewer police officers, more crime.

Lying just below the surface of that characterization is a starkly cynical message to marginalized communities: You can have accountable and constitutional policing, or you can have safety. But you can’t have both… . 

Read the full piece at The New York Times.