We are going into our fifth month of demonstrations and actions all over the USA about police violence and sanctioned summary judgment. Hearing, reading, seeing the news, it seems as if brutality, terror, and torture are breaking out worldwide, with beheadings and mass killings happening at, perhaps, a quickening rate. Violence meeting violence to make more violence, intertribal problems stuck on stupid, here and abroad.
Recently, I saw a DVD of “The Interrupters,” (http://interrupters.kartemquin.com) on an open cart in the library and I took it home. It’s a documentary about a group called Ceasefire which “interrupts” street violence between gangs and violent individuals in Chicago. CeaseFire’s founder, Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who believes that violence spreads like an infectious disease and uses a “medical” treatment: “go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source,” to stop it. One part of that treatment is the “Violence Interrupters” program, created by Tio Hardiman, a group of street-credible, mostly former offenders who defuse conflict before it becomes violence. They can speak from experience about consequences and how “no matter what the additional violence is not going to be helpful.”
About the same time, a friend wrote me about a radio interview (http://www.ttbook.org/book/reforming-lapd) with Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney and cousin to the former Secretary of State, who has trained 50 LA police officers over the last five years in “public trust policing” at Nickerson Gardens, an LA public housing project.
I picked up “The Interrupters” because I was wondering why we didn’t hear about this group in relation to what has been happening with the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamar Rice and others. I listened to the interview with Constance Rice for the same reason. Why haven’t I seen Ms Rice, Gary Slutkin, or Tio Hardiman on my TV screen and all over “social media”? They are doing some things which have proven to work in their own communities. How much of what they’ve done in Chicago and LA can apply to NYC and Boston and other places all around the world? Can they teach us all how to interrupt our own violence and to build a system of public trust policing? As Tio Hardiman says in the DVD: “We’ve been taught violence. Violence is learned behavior.” Can these people and the others like them teach us how to unlearn our violent behavior?
We’ll never know unless their voices are part of the conversation.
Here are my notes on public trust policing from Constance Rice’s interview:
“We start by saying you’re not going to get promoted for how many arrests you make… I told these cops you are not in the arrest business. You are a specialized unit that is in the trust building business…. building trust through service, trust through service and by doing that they’ve completely won over these populations… 66% reduction in property crimes, a 90% reduction in physical crimes… There has not been a murder in Nickerson Gardens for three years….
“To do community trust policing requires a cop to population ratio that we don’t have, #2 it requires you to completely rewrite all the assumptions of policing #3 it requires you to change all of the promotional criteria… They get rewarded for creating relationships… These cops have gotten standing ovations from public housing populations….
“They [critics] can’t argue with the statistics…. We’re talking now five years of data, of constant double digit drops, to the point that the homicides don’t happen anymore…
“A gang murder can cost a million dollars to 17 million dollars… This program has saved hundreds of millions of dollars for the city of Los Angeles… as much as $150 million… a back of the envelope calculation… [number of attacks on police and cops injured on thre job] with this unit, it’s down to zero
“What’s going to change it is changing how cops think and changing how they respond, to everybody, but in particular poor Black people and poor Latino people and poor White people because if you look at the stats on poor Whites they aren’t much better…. What will help them [cops] change and that’s what we have to focus on and that’s what I’m in the business of doing.”
Full interview at http://www.ttbook.org/book/reforming-lapd
Here are my notes on the Interrupters:
“The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire. It was founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. One of the cornerstones of the organization is the ‘Violence Interrupters’ program, created by Tio Hardiman, who heads the program. The Interrupters — who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories — intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence.”
Gary Slutkin: “Violence is like the great infectious diseases of all history… I saw it as bad behavior not bad people….
Two step process: I have a grievance. The grievance justifies violence.”
Editorial Comment: Interrupt at the point of justification. Vengeance versus justice.
GS: “Everyone has got a grievance and so we just have to say no matter what the additional violence is not going to be helpful. So we’re not in that good and bad game. We’re not in that drama.”
GS: “…reducing violence is not a bandaid, it’s actually a pathway to a neighborhood to develop….
Editorial Comment: Conflict resolution as self-help and development, positive protest, Gandhian economics, cooperation
“We’ve been taught violence. Violence is learned behavior.”
TH: “You cannot mediate conflict without confrontation.”