Policing The Police With Cameras, Ctd

A reader writes:

Your recent post about equipping police forces with video cameras struck a chord with me, as I recently sat on a jury where the lack of video played a central role. The case was not particularly exceptional, and the lesson obviously anecdotal, but it was a major eye-opener for me.

A young Hispanic male from a nearby town known for its drug trade was targeted and arrested by a drug task force, although no drug charges were presented. He was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon (ramming the undercover cruiser behind him with his car), operating a motor vehicle to endanger (driving on the sidewalk to evade the ad hoc police blockade), leaving the scene of an accident, negligent operation (running stop signs) and failure to stop for police.

The very first question the defense lawyer asked was, “Where’s the video?” Of course there was none, and in the absence of actual evidence, video or otherwise, the six middle/upper-middle class white people that composed our jury took it on faith that four police officers would casually perjure themselves and voted not guilty on the assault and endangerment charges. At one point, one of the jury members asked “Why are there no witnesses?” I’m no friend of the police, but I felt I had to remind the group that technically the State presented four witnesses – the four police officers.

In the end, we voted to convict on the negligent operation and failure to stop charges, based on the defendant’s own account of the episode during his testimony. I couldn’t help but think that the police have a real, existential problem when the juror I expected to be most sympathetic to the police – the contractor who told the court he knew a few cops from the neighborhood – turned out to be the one most adamant that the officers’ testimony should be completely disregarded.

The day may be fast approaching when any officer who wants to be believed in court will welcome video evidence to back them up, and that will surely be a win for anyone interested in justice.

The Meaning Of #Ferguson

by Dish Staff

Over the weekend, David Carr marveled at how well Twitter has matured as a tool for journalism:

For people in the news business, Twitter was initially viewed as one more way to promote and distribute content. But as the world has become an ever more complicated place — a collision of Ebola, war in Iraq, crisis in Ukraine and more — Twitter has become an early warning service for news organizations, a way to see into stories even when they don’t have significant reporting assets on the ground. And in a situation hostile to traditional reporting, the crowdsourced, phone-enabled network of information that Twitter provides has proved invaluable. …

In and of itself, Twitter is not sufficient to see clearly into a big story; it’s a series of straws that offer narrow views of a much bigger picture. But as a kind of constantly changing kaleidoscope, it provides enough visibility to show that something significant is underway.

Along those lines, Amma Marfo focuses in on how important Twitter has become to the black community, particularly over the past week:

Twitter’s lack of algorithms to control the display of content means that posts are elevated in popularity only by the people who favorite, Retweet, and share screen captures of impactful or informative messages. Such a structure allows the insight of the observant but relatively unknown amateur, alongside high-profile and highly educated (another population that uses Twitter in high volume), to stand alongside one another. This egalitarian information sharing model is welcome for historically disenfranchised populations. This could be key for its popularity with other minority groups such as Hispanics. Its use among African-Americans continues to rise, as does the increasing use of Twitter as a credible means to gauge public opinion and the newsworthiness of given topics.

But it’s worth noting that the overall social media ecosystem is not always like this. Last week, Zeynep Tufekci pointed out the difference in following the Ferguson protests on Twitter, which shows you all the tweets from whoever you follow in real time, and Facebook, which uses an algorithm to determine both what you see and when you get to see it. To highlight the frenzy of Ferguson tweets last Wednesday night she flagged this graph:


But when she checked her Facebook feed during that spike, there was nothing at all about the story, not until the next morning:

Overnight, “edgerank” –or whatever Facebook’s filtering algorithm is called now — seems to have bubbled [the Ferguson items] up, probably as people engaged them more. But I wonder: what if Ferguson had started to bubble, but there was no Twitter to catch on nationally? Would it ever make it through the algorithmic filtering on Facebook? Maybe, but with no transparency to the decisions, I cannot be sure.

Would Ferguson be buried in algorithmic censorship?

And as she goes on to note, Twitter already does use an algorithm to determine what topics trend nationally, which may have partially delayed the onset of Ferguson’s social media attention last week. Also, it looks like Twitter is now messing even further with what their users see, as Jay Yarow explains:

Until now, your timeline was filled only with tweets from the people you follow, or retweets from those same people. In other words, you got only the content for which you opted in. [The new policy] opens up the possibility for Twitter to start putting tweets from people you don’t follow in your feed.  … By doing this, Twitter makes its timeline more like Facebook’s News Feed, which populates based on algorithms that measure likes and interests.

“The Politics Of Respectability”

by Dish Staff

Coates is beyond tired of the continual “transmutation of black protest into moral hectoring of black people”:

Don Imus profanely insults a group of black women. But the real problem is gangsta rap. Trayvon Martin is killed. This becomes a conversation about how black men are bad fathers. Jonathan Martin is bullied mercilessly. This proves that black people have an unfortunate sense of irony.

The politics of respectability are, at their root, the politics of changing the subject—the last resort for those who can not bear the agony of looking their country in the eye. The policy of America has been, for most of its history, white supremacy. The high rates of violence in black neighborhoods do not exist outside of these facts—they evidence them.

Ioffe likewise addresses the “troubling self-flagellation in Ferguson’s black community”:

Respectability, in essence, is about policing the behavior in your community to make sure people are behaving “properly,” so as to not attract unwelcome attention from whites“with ‘properly’ being a normatively white middle class presentation,” says [political scientist Michael] Dawson. In feminist discourse, a similar phenomenon among women is described as internalizing the patriarchal gaze. That is, women see themselves as the men in charge want to see themfeminine, sexy, pliantand then behave and dress accordingly. Respectability is the same thing, but with blacks internalizing the white gaze. …

In some ways, this is an understandable response: If you are in the minority, and are disadvantaged and exposed to danger because of it, it is natural to try to minimize the downsides by trying to live according to the laws of the ruling majority and not call attention to one’s differences from them. It also provides a modicum of comfort, a sense that one can have control over the amount of discrimination one is exposed to even when in fact it is out of your control. “There’s good empowerment and false empowerment,” says [Jelani ] Cobb. “But if you think that the problem is within us, then at least it gives you the idea that you have the capacity to change it.” It also sidesteps the issue of institutionalized racism, the real reason for the fact that, in Chicago, blacks and Latinos were four times more likely to be stopped by the police than whites. “Really, what we’re dealing with is racism that is entrenched, and that we have limited capacity to determine how much of it we’re exposed to in our lives,” says Cobb.

Policing The Police With Cameras, Ctd

by Dish Staff

Ferguson is exploring outfitting its officers with dash and body cameras. Sara Libby points out a problem San Diego has had with its body cams:

Here in San Diego, our scandal-plagued police department has begun outfitting some officers with body cameras, and the City Council has approved a plan to roll out hundreds more. Officers wearing the cameras were present during at least two shootings earlier this year. Yet we’re still not any closer to knowing what happened in those chaotic moments—whether the perpetrators can be easily identified, what kind of interactions the officers had with those present, nothing.

That’s because the department claims the footage, which is captured by devices financed by city taxpayers and worn by officers on the public payroll, aren’t public records. Our newsroom’s request for footage from the shootings under the California Public Records Act was denied. Once footage becomes part of an investigation, the department says it doesn’t have to release them. SDPD also said during the pilot phase of the camera program that it doesn’t even have to release footage from the cameras after an investigation wraps.

Kriston Capps sees limits to what police cameras can accomplish in Ferguson:

A survey of the available research conducted by the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center shows that most of the claims about police body cameras have not been fully tested, while many of the consequences for law-enforcement agencies, labor unions, and communities have not even been explored.

But city leaders have other, better, more immediate options if they truly want to “demonstrate the transparency of our city departments.” Namely, leaders in Ferguson should require officers to put their badges back on their vests and ask the Federal Aviation Administration to put the news choppers back in the air.

T.C. Sottek expresses more skepticism:

Body cameras would be a welcome improvement for many in Ferguson, but even dash cameras, used by other police departments across the United States, haven’t been installed there. The city’s police chief revealed last week that the department purchased two dash cameras and body cameras, but never installed them due to cost.

Scott Shackford, for his part, thinks cameras may help. He points out that Rialto, California “has made national news for making officers wear vest cameras, reducing the use of force by police and complaints against the police.” Earlier Dish on the cameras-for-cops debate here.

Grand Jury, Limited Justice?

by Dish Staff

Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, may be facing a grand jury. Jonathan Cohn explains:

Here’s how the process will work, according to criminal law experts based or practicing in Missouri. The grand jury, which consists of twelve people plucked from the local population, will sit around a table in a deliberation room somewhere in the county courthouse building. It’s the prosecutor’s show: He will present the case, starting with an overview and then bringing forward evidence. But it’s not like a trial. There will be no attorney for the other side, no judge, not even a bailiff. For most of the time, they will be alone except for the prosecutor and, on occasion, a witness who will be providing testimony.

The idea behind a grand jury is that it serves as the people’s voicein effect, a democratic check on the enormous power of prosecutors to bring charges and force people into trials. A grand jury can be a truly deliberative body if it wants. Members can ask for witnesses to appear and testifyand ask those witnesses questions directly. Grand juries can also control their proceedings, deciding how much evidence to hear and when, finally, to vote on charges. In Missouri, it takes at least nine jurors to deliver an indictment, which is known as a “true bill.” Any less and the jury reaches a verdict of “no true bill,” which means no indictments.

Amanda Taub interviews former federal prosecutor Alex Little on what a grand jury will mean for this case:

The only question the grand jury must answer is whether there is probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. That’s a very low standard, and it’s almost always met when the District Attorney seeks charges.

“So when a District Attorney says, in effect, ‘we’ll present the evidence and let the grand jury decide,”‘that’s malarkey. If he takes that approach, then he’s already decided to abdicate his role in the process as an advocate for justice. At that point, there’s no longer a prosecutor in the room guiding the grand jurors, and — more importantly — no state official acting on behalf of the victim, Michael Brown.

“Then, when you add to the mix that minorities are notoriously underrepresented on grand juries, you have the potential for nullification — of a grand jury declining to bring charges even when there is sufficient probable cause. That’s the real danger to this approach.”

Joe Coscarelli points out that the same procedure is taking place in the case of Eric Garner’s killing:

In Staten Island, District Attorney Daniel Donovan said in a statement, “I have determined that it is appropriate to present evidence regarding the circumstances of [Eric Garner’s] death to a Richmond County Grand Jury. Yesterday, the Court granted my application for the impaneling of an additional Grand Jury and I intend to utilize that Grand Jury sometime next month to begin presenting evidence on this matter.” In what the medical examiner ruled a homicide, Garner died after being put in what appeared to be an illegal NYPD chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes.

The move to a grand jury comes after a “careful” review of the evidence, Donovan said.

Angela J.Davis argues we should look beyond just the cops in Ferguson:

Bob McCulloch is the prosecutor for St. Louis County and has held the position for 23 years. McCulloch has stated that he will present the evidence of Michael Brown’s killing to a grand jury, but members of the African-American community have expressed concern about his ability to be fair. There is always such a concern in cases involving the investigation of police officers. Police officers don’t technically work for prosecutors, but they are definitely part of the prosecution team. They investigate the cases, gather the evidence, and testify as witnesses for the state. Without police officers, prosecutors can’t bring cases or secure convictions. So prosecutors have an inherent conflict of interest when they are considering charges against police officers.

The conflict seems particularly deep-seated in this case. Bob McCulloch’s father was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty when McCulloch was a child. And McCulloch was very critical of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to place the Missouri State Troopers in charge of security after complaints about the St. Louis police department’s violent attacks on peaceful protestors and journalists. McCulloch called the governor’s decision “shameful” and accused him of “denigrat[ing] the men and women of the county police department.”

Chris Geidner expects lawsuits all around:

“There will be lawsuits up the kazoo,” said Barbara Arnwine, the longtime president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in an interview Sunday evening. “I think you’re going to see ripple after ripple of legal matters here in response to this outrageous situation.”

The first matter will be the potential criminal and civil actions related to Brown’s death. But legal experts also predict possible litigation stemming from the actions taken by police in Ferguson, lawsuits brought by store owners against the police related to looting, and even the imposition of a curfew.

What’s The Matter With St. Louis?

by Dish Staff

St Louis

Yglesias digs up an illuminating set of maps:

In May of 2014, researchers from Washington University in St Louis and St Louis University put together a long report on racial health disparities in the St Louis area. It’s largely a deep dive into the socioeconomic roots of these disparities, and includes this map highlighting the pattern of segregation by race and income levels in both the City and County of St Louis. On the left is the distribution of the African American population in the city and county, and on the right is the distribution of poverty

Philip Bump examines the racial disparities in St. Louis:

The unemployment and poverty rates for blacks in St. Louis County are consistently higher than those rates for white residents. Only one time between 2007 and 2012 has the poverty rate for blacks been less than three times that of whites, according to Census data (which is only available through the latter year). The unemployment rate is two-to-three times higher, and, as of 2012, had grown worse while it grew better for whites.

What’s more, those figures disproportionately affect younger residents. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist David] Nicklaus pulls out a subset of Census data: “47 percent of the metro area’s African-American men between ages 16 and 24 are unemployed. The comparable figure for young white men is 16 percent.”

Jamelle Bouie expects tensions in the St. Louis area to continue for some time:

A 2012 report from University of Missouri–St. Louis criminologist David Klinger found that, from 2008 to 2011, St. Louis police officers fired their weapons 98 times. “Any comparison across cities right now is still missing the lion’s share of circumstances in which people are shot by the police,” Klinger said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There are only a smattering of cities that report their officer-involved shootings, and when compared against them, St. Louis is on the high end.” The data on police violence is incomplete, as there is no federal effort to pull together information on unjustified homicides. But the anecdotes of brutality and excessive force out of St. Louis  and St. Louis County are rampant and often startling. In 2009, for example, a man was wrongly arrested, beaten by police, and subsequently charged for bleeding on their uniforms.

This abuse is so ubiquitous that the shooting of Michael Brown might seem like static against a backdrop of awfulness. But even for the area, Brown’s death was brutal. Which is why—in an otherwise quiet town in an otherwise quiet area—we’re dealing with an explosive fire that shows no signs of ending.

The Ferguson Fishbowl

by Dish Staff

Earlier this week, Max Fisher shared his alarm at how the press have been treated in Ferguson, where at least 11 journalists have been arrested since the protests began:

This has a much deeper and more damaging effect than just suppressing media coverage. Arresting and intimidating journalists are inherently political acts, guaranteed by design to generate attention. Much as when it’s done in far-away conflict zones and authoritarian states, it’s about making a statement. It’s about demonstrating, to ordinary citizens even more than to journalists, that police believe they can exercise absolute control over the streets and anyone in them.

That police in Ferguson are targeting journalists so openly and aggressively is an appalling affront to basic media freedoms, but it is far scarier for what it suggests about how the police treat everyone else — and should tell us much about why Ferguson’s residents are so fed up. When police in Ferguson are willing to rough up and arbitrarily arrest a Washington Post reporter just for being in a McDonald’s, you have to wonder how those police treat the local citizens, who don’t have the shield of a press pass.

But Chris Hayes, who was himself threatened by a cop while reporting on the protests, nonetheless sympathizes with the police:

I think it’s a fair assessment to say police don’t really enjoy doing this job while being recorded all the time. That press freedom is beautiful is not the prevailing sentiment. In their defense, they’re in a high-stress, highly adrenalized situation. It’s dark. They’re hearing over the police radio “shots fired!” I heard that over a police radio. It turned out to be fireworks. But they’re worried they might be in danger.

Noah Rothman, meanwhile, casts aspersions on some of the media in Ferguson for essentially roleplaying:

Crowd control requires managing the press just as it does for protesters, and it is the height of irresponsibility for reporters to create the conditions, as some have, which would force police to view them as a threat proportionate to that of the protesters. While police would be well-advised to avoid making martyrs of journalists, even if some appear to welcome that condition, there is only so much leeway law enforcement can provide.

What is going on in Ferguson is complicated, but the press may no longer be playing a helpful role. In fact, they could be inflaming a tense situation even further. While that is debatable, what is indisputable is what the media has become: part of the story.

Josh Voorhees shakes his head:

[M]issing from such handwringing about the reporters’ ostensible loss of objectivity is the fact that the media had left the sidelines long before [the Washington Post’s Wesley] Lowery and [the Huffington Post’s Ryan] Reilly were handcuffed. The very reason that national reporters … packed their bags for Ferguson was to get answers. Answers to why a member of the Ferguson Police Department opened fire on an unarmed black teen in broad daylight. Answers to why city officials originally refused to identify the cop involved in the shooting or even say how many bullets he had fired. Answers to why police were responding to what originally were largely peaceful protests with military-grade riot gear.

In short, the media descended on Ferguson looking for the same thing that had led protesters to take to the streets: the truth. That’s the real reason the media is siding with the protestors: What the people in the streets of Ferguson want is the same thing the journalists were sent there to find.

And in the end, sometimes getting arrested just gives journalists an alternative method of access, which is what happened with Ryan Devereaux:

[Bild reporter Lukas Hermsmeier and I] were jailed with a cross-section of the Ferguson protesters. Most of our cellmates were African American and from Ferguson or surrounding areas, though there were also some white men in the mix, too. There were three recently discharged veterans in our group and one active duty service member. I don’t know how many—if any—of the men I was in jail with had participated in the violent, destructive protesting that I saw. But far from being the hardened criminals some might paint them as, these young men—most of whom had never met before last night—offered support for each other. They were kind to one another. …

The concerns these men raised—and the intensity that they have for this moment in Ferguson—runs very deep. Several cited the disproportionate number of traffic stops of young men of color as a specific problem. On a more fundamental level, their grievances centered on a perceived lack of respect from the police sworn to protect their communities, a sense that anything could be done to them and nothing would be done in response. One young African American man from the area positively beamed at being arrested for a cause; he likened it to going to jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Follow all our Ferguson coverage here.

How We Turned Our Cops Into Soldiers, Ctd

by Dish Staff

A reader with more than two decades of experience in law enforcement offers his perspective on police militarization:

For the record, I’m a supervisor with a medium-sized police department in Midwest who has also worked in a small town. I’ve been a patrol officer, a detective, and now a supervisor. At heart, I’m an old fashioned beat cop who enjoys walking down a main street and talking to people. I’ve never served in my department’s tactical team, nor am I a veteran.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in my career so far. One of the biggest is the nature of the threat that we face on the street. When I was in the police academy, we prepared for criminals who had cheap handguns and little training. The types of weapons that we face have changed dramatically; the police have simply evolved to meet those threats. I’ll give you a couple of examples:

Iexplore111 (1)During the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, bank robbers armed with illegally modified fully automatic weapons exchanged more than 2,000 rounds with responding LAPD officers. The robbers, who wore ballistic vests, were killed after a 44-minute exchange of gunfire. Seventeen LAPD officers and seven civilians were injured in the battle. The after-action review led to changes in the weapons carried by LAPD officers as well as departments around the country. The agencies moved away from shotguns in squad cars and toward military-style assault rifles that could penetrate body armor. Those rifles aren’t cheap – they often cost more than $2,500 each, plus $500 to $1,000 for the equipment to keep them secured inside of the squad car. If I were the head of a cash-strapped police department, I know I would love to get those weapons from a program that transitions D.O.D equipment to local law enforcement.

The second incident that changed law enforcement profoundly was the 1999 Columbine school shooting. Previously, law enforcement dealt with situations like this by sealing off the area and waiting for special tactical teams to arrive. At Columbine, law enforcement realized that it’s not enough to simply lock down the area; rather it’s necessary to go in, find the killer or killers, and neutralize them before they kill any more. Since 1999, I and countless other police officers have undergone days and days of training in “active shooter response.” I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the training involved would seem quite militaristic to the public. The skills and tactics we use are very different from what I learned in the academy, and along with that, we have specialized tools. For example, there is an M-4 assault rifle in each of my agencies’ squad cars.

I get that this is militaristic. Going through a school or mall looking for a shooter utilizes tactics any soldier would recognize from operations in Iraq or Afghanistan. We use them and the equipment because it works. The problem that we face in our field is that these tactics often creep into all aspects of our work. The more you become comfortable with the new reality, the more you need to recognize that it’s a reality you only rarely face.

This leads me to my biggest point regarding the Ferguson police department: We need to stop looking at the officers and start looking at the leaders. Everyone above sergeant has set the tone in this organization. They have done the hiring, and they were leading the efforts to deal with the protesters. There may very well be rogue officers causing issues, and if so, it should likely be no shock to the administration. Problem persons in law enforcement agencies fester for years because it can be challenging to fire an officer, especially if he or she is a military veteran. The one constant in every agency that I’ve been a part of is that the chief of police down to the lieutenants set the tone and direction of the department. The sergeants get the message out to the patrol officers and enforce the message. We haven’t heard the police chief of Ferguson say his officers are out of control – because they are doing what he wants them to do.

More Dish on the war zone that is Ferguson, Missouri, here.

(Image of a illegally modified automatic AR-15 used in the North Hollywood shootout via Wikipedia user YEPPOON)

Ferguson Isn’t A Black Issue

by Dish Staff

Amy Zimmerman addresses the outcry over hip-hop stars not weighing in enough:

When a celebrity speaks out about an important issue, it increases visibility—this is a good thing. Nevertheless, the expectation that every African-American star or hip-hop hero must weigh in on Ferguson is a problematic one. Demanding that every beloved black celebrity respond to this issue would be like asking every white celebrity to take to social media whenever a white person, be they a criminal or a victim, makes the nightly news. The next time a mentally unstable white man opens fire on the public, you can be sure that the judgment of the world will fall firmly on that individual, not on Lena Dunham for failing to release a cogent and heartfelt press release.

Expecting every black celebrity with a hit single or an extensive Twitter following to address Ferguson implies that Michael Brown’s murder is a minority issue instead of a human rights one. Furthermore, demanding that any one person who is not directly implicated in the atrocity weigh in on it anyway distracts from the brave protestors, articulate journalists, and passionate public figures who are voluntarily taking on the responsibility of ensuring that Michael Brown’s prematurely silenced voice is heard.

Getting Out The Vote In Ferguson

by Dish Staff

Ferguson’s government is much whiter than its population. But Yglesias doubts that will be true for long:

Nobody who lives in the area could possibly think that local government doesn’t matter any more, and a community capable of organizing nightly protest marches should have relatively little trouble getting people to come out and vote. And if Ferguson’s African-American residents do vote, they should have relatively little trouble installing a government that hears their concerns and leans against the systemic inequities in the American criminal justice system.

In other words, the town at the center of this drama may well see a real improvement in political representation. The deeper problem is going to lie elsewhere — in the many towns large and small where people of color are a minority of eligible voters and the basis of white political power is firmer.

Friedersdorf wants recall elections:

A successful recall of Ferguson’s mayor and city council is the best outcome I can imagine from a protest movement that is justifiably angry, but uncertain about how to achieve its goals and at risk of losing public support if the streets turn more violent. Protesters want transparency in the investigation into Brown’s death, accountability for the police department, and an end to leadership that demonstrates such disregard and seeming contempt for the city’s black people. Perhaps existing pressure on city leaders, or appeals already made to the Department of Justice, will help advance those goals—but while more night protests would seem to offer scant hope for additional gains, replacing the city’s elected leadership would advance the protesters’ goals directly and dramatically. The effort would be nonviolent, it might well increase civic participation for years or even generations to come, and if successful, it would send an inspiring message to those who feel powerless: that a system very much stacked against them is still a far more powerful weapon than a molotov cocktail.

Jonathan Rodden points out that, “while St. Louis is indeed among the most segregated metropolitan regions in the United States, Ferguson and some of its North County neighbors are among the most racially integrated municipalities in Missouri and well beyond”:

Let us not learn the wrong lessons from recent events in Missouri. By no means does Ferguson prove the defeatist claim that blacks and whites cannot live together in peace as the inner suburbs transform. Those of us who grew up in the integrated Ferguson-Florissant area in recent decades know otherwise. It is not a post-racial paradise, but it is a functioning multiracial community. What we are seeing in Ferguson is not merely the latest manifestation of the age-old problem of segregation and housing discrimination. Rather, it is evidence that the best hope for a solution – -the creation of integrated middle-class neighborhoods such as Ferguson — cannot work without political inclusion and accountability.

Fred Siegel is much more pessimistic about Ferguson’s future:

Riots bring but one certainty—enormous economic and social costs. Businesses flee, taking jobs and tax revenues with them. Home values decline for all races, but particularly for blacks. Insurance costs rise and civic morale collapses. The black and white middle classes move out. Despite its busy port and enormous geographic assets, Newark, New Jersey has never fully recovered from its 1967 riot. This year, Newark elected as its mayor Ras Baraka, the son and political heir of Amiri Baraka—the intellectual inspiration for the 1967 unrest.

The story is similar in Detroit, which lost half its residents between 1967 and 2000. Civic authority was never restored after the late 1960s riots, which never really ended; they just continued in slow motion. “It got decided a long time ago in Detroit,” explained Adolph Mongo, advisor to the jailed former “hip-hop mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick, that “the city belongs to the black man. The white man was a convenient target until there were no white men left in Detroit.” The upshot, explained Sam Riddle, an advisor to current congressman John Conyers, first elected in 1965, is that “the only difference between Detroit and the Third World in terms of corruption is that Detroit don’t have no goats in the streets.”