Law Enforcement and Profiling

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There are many varied and important jobs in law enforcement. In this post I will be highlighting only a few of them. Though there are some bad apples, the majority of men and women serving in law enforcement are deeply devoted to protecting and serving the public.

One (now retired) officer/ FBI agent I have the deepest respect for is Roger L. Depue.

roger-depue

In the course of his career he literally changed the field of law enforcement as well as took huge numbers of bad guys off the streets. Roger Depue is a former Viet Nam era Marine who began his career in law enforcement  by following in his father’s footsteps serving as a police officer. By the age of 27 (unheard of at the time), Depue was the youngest police chief in his home state of Michigan. At the same time, Depue was pursuing degrees in Psychology and became deeply interested in criminal behavior. It wasn’t long before Depue began working for the FBI and took over as the head of the newborn Behavioral Science Unit. Using psychology to catch the bad guys was a brand new concept in the 1970’s. Fascinated by similarities in certain types of criminals, Depue had a revolutionary idea. He and his team didn’t consider their job complete just by throwing bad guys in jail. Once they were in jail, criminals themselves were interviewed and studied. Depue felt that if similarities among certain classifications of convicts (rapists, serial murderers, kidnappers, etc) could be found that it may help to identify others with a criminal mind set before a crime was committed or that these patterns of behavior could help identify suspects during an investigation. Today we call this method criminology. Depue’s  ideas panned out. In fact, so successful were Depue’s methods that other law enforcement officials around the county were either taught the methods or assisted by other officers who had studied them. The study of criminals then led into what we would recognize today as modern profiling. Depue and his Behavioral Science Unit more or less invented modern profiling. FBI profilers, who were amazingly accurate in their predictions,  helped to take many criminals off the streets and in the course of doing so changed law enforcement practices forever.

between-good-and-evil
Between Good and Evil by Roger L. Depue is the memoir of his law enforcement career as well as a description of some personal struggles he had in trying not to be overcome by all the pure evil he witnessed on a daily basis. Dealing with violent offenders and serial killers everyday for years takes a toll on those who do it. Depue says he has always been a man of faith and sees no conflict between his faith and the evil he saw each day. However, seeing mostly evil on a daily basis can begin to warp one’s perception. After his retirement from the FBI, Depue started a consulting agency in which he and a team of other retired profilers and law enforcement officers assisted authorities in various ways–by writing profiles, helping with cold cases, writing reports for legal purposes, advising on high profile cases, etc. After doing this type of work for awhile, Depue needed to take some time to get his head straight. He enrolled in a seminary and studied to become a clergyman, trying to bring balance into his life. Depue then went on to work with convicts themselves. He was interested in helping to rehabilitate convicts that could be rehabilitated which he did for awhile. Now, Depue has a private practice and works with at risk kids–kids who can hopefully be turned around before they get into trouble and start on a bad path with the law.

As much good as profiling has done, there has also been some questions about its misuse. For instance are law enforcement agencies using racial profiling? Are white cops targeting black men?  Can black men who feel like they have to constantly look over their shoulders trust white cops?  Are black men targeting white cops? Can police do their jobs if they are constantly second guessed and needing to look over their shoulders? Where do black cops fit into all of this? Is it possible that crime rates are not so much related to race as they are to the disintegrating family unit? This is a very emotional and controversial topic.

The next book, The War On Cops by Heather Mac Donald, is also quite controversial while considering plausible answers to all of the above questions.

the-war-on-cops

Due to the controversial nature of this book, I will simply quote what Perseus Publisher says to describe this book:

Since the summer of 2014, America has been convulsed with a protest movement known as Black Lives Matter. That movement holds that police officers are among the greatest threats if not the greatest threat facing young black males today. Policing and the rest of the criminal justice system from prosecutors to drug laws single out minority communities for gratuitous and heavy-handed enforcement, the charge goes, resulting in an epidemic of mass incarceration that falls most heavily on blacks.

This book challenges that narrative. Through vivid, street-level reporting, it gives voice to the many residents of high-crime neighborhoods, rarely heard in the media, who support proactive policing and want more of it. The book will argue that there is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that Black Lives Matter than today’s data-driven, accountable police department. In New York City alone, over ten thousand minority males are alive who would have been killed had the New York Police Department not brought homicide in the city down 80% from its early 1990’€™s level. The intelligence-led policing revolution that began in New York and spread nationally has transformed urban neighborhoods, freeing their residents from the thrall of daily fear.

Crime and community requests for assistance, not race, determine police deployment and tactics, the book will explain. But given the demographics of crime, the police cannot go where people are most being victimized without operating disproportionately in minority neighborhoods. That disproportionate police presence increases the risk that when a police-civilian encounter goes tragically awry, it will have a minority victim. But the police could end all lethal use of force justified and unjustified tomorrow, and the black death by homicide rate would barely budge. That death rate six times higher than the homicide victimization rate of whites and Hispanics combined is a function of the black homicide commission rate, which is itself nearly eight times higher than the white and Hispanic homicide commission rates combined. It is such elevated rates of crime, the book will demonstrate, that explain why police focus on urban neighborhoods.

Other topics include such contested tactics as stop, question, and frisk and broken windows policing. It will take the reader inside prisons and jails. It will argue that proactive policing has been the greatest public policy success story of the last quarter century, resulting in a record-breaking national crime drop that no criminologist or even police chief foresaw.

That crime drop is now at risk, however, thanks to the nonstop agitation against the police led by the Black Lives Matter movement. The book will refute the argument that racist drug statutes and enforcement lie behind the black incarceration rate and call for a more honest and informed debate about policing, crime, and race, before the public safety gains of the last twenty years are lost.

While Heather Mac Donald clearly feels that race isn’t the prevailing reason behind high black incarceration rates, the next author does believe that race is a factor in some instances.

suspicion-nation

Suspicion Nation :the Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It  by Lisa Bloom explores the controversial trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman for the death of Trayvon Martin. Bloom believes that race should have been discussed in the Zimmerman trial, but was basically dismissed. Zimmerman, who is a white man, shot and killed an unarmed black teenager who was walking home from the store with candy and a drink. Zimmerman, who was on his way to the grocery store, saw Trayvon walking home and thought he was “suspicious.” There had been some reported break ins to homes in the area. The burglar suspects were reported to be black men. Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious person and then ignored the dispatcher’s comment that Zimmerman wasn’t needed to follow the person. The author clearly believes that racial profiling was at the heart of the Trayvon Martin murder case. By the time police arrived on scene, it was apparent some sort of scuffle had occurred and Trayvon was dead. Zimmerman was later tried and found not guilty of murder by a six person all female jury with only one minority juror. Lisa Bloom explores all the details of the trial in this book and inserts her opinions about the many mistakes she believes occurred. She tries to explain how a white man can shoot an unarmed black teenager and be found not guilty of a crime. Bloom makes it quite clear she thinks the outcome should have been different and that she believes there is a need for stricter gun control laws.

It appears that there is a deep need in this country to get back to the basics and treat people as people, regardless of race. It is my belief after much reading that blacks, whites, and other minorities want fairness, not necessarily a focus on race (even though in some cases race does need to be discussed). What are your ideas of ways to make this happen? How can we get past the emotionalism and anger (from all sides) and improve our justice system?

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Law Enforcement and Profiling

  1. I’m not sure it will ever happen. Sounds terrible, but I think it might be true. Where there are people able to to labeled they will be, since we are obsessed with classification. Where there are groups, there will be leaders, and that instantly sets up a hierarchy, leading straight into unfairness and more labeling. As for fixing the Justice system, again I don’t think there is one right answer for everyone to agree, so there will always be a raging battle there as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I know what you are saying. I wish the world was perfect (and realize this side of Heaven that’s probably never going to happen), however, I guess I think there is always room for improvement. Doing nothing will yield the same results, but perhaps there are baby steps we can take to try to improve what we currently have–which is far from perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh absolutely, there is room for improvement! I guess one thing we can do is, as individuals, practice being slow to anger, and stop being so quick to judge and label. If everyone does there part the large problem becomes small and manageable.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Agreed. I really like the trying to be slow to anger part. I think sometimes things are just a misunderstanding, but people get angry and jump to conclusions when with a little self control and patience, perhaps we can avoid a situation escalating. Having said that, I thin there are times when anger is appropriate and I think there is nothing wrong with being angry about something, but it (literally) makes a world of difference what we do with that anger.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. In my naive simplification of a societal and cultural problem, it seems a good place to start is creating a panel on the side of law enforcement and a panel on the side of race/religion. Representatives from each side should sit down and DISCUSS the issues to better understand the REAL concerns. Each side should then report back to their peers outlining the issues and suggestions that could resolve the ROOT ISSUES. The media should then report these findings to show the nation that a TANGIBLE APPROACH is being gradually implemented. Ultimately, good communication and compromise is needed from ALL parties.

    At this point, there is no clear line of communication. Each side defends their role and is more concerned about justifiable behavior than resolving the BIG PICTURE. The media seems to focus their attention on tabloid reporting rather than a source of information leading to resolution.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a really great idea! I also agree with your assessment of there being no clear line of communication. The behavorist in me thinks this is key (non)behavior. So, how do we go about establishing these panels?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 1. Contacting our congress men and women and recommend they establish a task force to seek out community leaders and activists to sit down with public officials and law enforcement to construct an agenda to address the ROOT ISSUES instead of the rhetoric.
        2. Post the idea on social media to gain greater exposure to this concept.

        These are possibly two good starting places.

        Liked by 1 person

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