Opinion | Violent Crime Is Up as Cities Lose Police Officers. What Now?

 

Baton Rouge has not been spared from a nationwide rise in violent crime. Its decline in law enforcement officials was preceded by a number of high-profile killings, however the parish’s homicides have spiked over the identical interval that town misplaced law enforcement officials, with 170 homicides in 2021, in comparison with 97 in 2019. It is tempting to attract a connection between the emptying out of police departments in main cities such as Baton Rouge and a rise in violent crime. Did one result in the opposite?

In 2018, Baton Rouge welcomed a brand new police chief, Murphy Paul. He got here in as a reformer who needed to “construct bridges” in a group that had simply been by the trauma of the Sterling capturing and the deaths of three officers.

Paul has tried to sort out his present officer scarcity downside with a mix of social media advertising, recruiting blitzes and a concentrate on range of all types — financial, political, racial and academic. He has used quite a lot of recruitment pathways, together with pursuing a university soccer strategy: early contact with youngsters in highschool and sustained follow-up.

Paul spoke to me in “glass half full” declarations, however he admitted that his efforts to recruit new officers hadn’t totally replenished those that had resigned or retired. He stated that whereas the police capturing of Sterling, the next protests and the deaths of three officers actually harm morale, he believes that the decline in his pressure has extra to do with the pandemic and bigger elements within the financial system.

“There’s this narrative you hear individuals say, no person desires to be a police officer anymore,” Paul instructed me. “Well, I disagree with that. I feel that we’re experiencing the good resignation on this nation. It’s not distinctive to regulation enforcement. You hear about it in nursing, you hear about it in trucking, you hear about it in so many industries.”

Nor does he consider {that a} scarcity of officers is what’s resulting in the spike in homicides in his metropolis. He blames the lockdowns and the interruption of using some public areas and companies, whether or not it’s after-school applications, playgrounds, help for home abuse victims or drug courts that mandated testing. He additionally cites the “collective trauma” of the previous two years. This, he argues, did hurt the morale of law enforcement officials and their capacity to do their jobs, and as a consequence, many did go away the occupation.


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