Posts Tagged police

Fixing America


Once again America is grieving.  The deaths of five Dallas police officers and two young men who died elsewhere having been shot by police have rocked the nation.  Set aside for a moment the politics and circumstances of these events and reflect on the fact that as a result today there are children without fathers, mothers without sons, wives without husbands, sisters without brothers.

The shootings, and the protests than inevitably follow, are becoming ever more common.  What has become abundantly clear is there are inequities in our criminal justice system. The growing violence stemming from those inequities has made the already difficult job of law enforcement even tougher, which in turn has yielded more violence.

This being a presidential election year the powder keg upon which we sit will become even more volatile.  President Obama is calling for more federal control over local police departments.  Donald Trump struck a traditional tough on crime posture.

The solution is none of the above. More federal regulation only hamstrings local police and social services agencies, and filling our prisons even further does nothing to address the root cause of the problem.  It is time to admit that, while government has a role, government alone cannot fix what is wrong.

What can government do?

Criminal justice reform is in fact one of the few areas of public policy where the Left and the Right have found some common ground.  Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, speaking to the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (http://www.paleadershipconference.org/2015-videos/205-ken-cuccinelli-2015) last year explained it well:  “Ninety-five percent of the people in our jails are coming back out.  So we can ignore that, or we can make the criminal justice system be what it was supposed to be and that is an opportunity for rehabilitation, for correction and for improvement.”

Some conservatives might recoil at that suggestion, but Cuccinelli explains: “I believe nobody is beyond redemption.  That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve punishment for doing wrong. But when you talk about literally or figuratively throwing away the key are you abandoning perhaps more important beliefs in your life?”

Those “more important beliefs” get to the heart of the ultimate solution, for our goal must be to prevent people from ending up in the criminal justice system in the first place.  The root cause of the current crisis is as much societal than it is governmental.

I served for four years as a Dauphin County Commissioner with oversight of human services.  During that time I watched many dedicated folks dealing with the result of what was a breakdown of family and community.  Simply put, government does not and cannot have the resources necessary to supplant the many individual support networks that family, church, and community provide.

While we must work with law enforcement and improve our criminal justice system, the ultimate solution comes down to three things: faith, family and education.  Until and unless we strengthen those institutions we cannot expect the situation to improve.

The removal of religion from the public square is not just some right wing talking point.  Religion – Christian or other – has throughout history provided the moral underpinning of our society.  It is through religion we learn not only rules of conduct, but find the most important of human yearnings including unconditional love, forgiveness and hope.  In the absence of these vital intangibles people, particularly the young, fill the void with drugs and crime.

There has never been born that person who did not need the guidance and discipline of strong family ties.  Define family in whatever way you will, but at the end of the day children and youth need someone who cares about them, provides for them, and nurtures them.  In particular, the absence of fathers has contributed to a breakdown of the family unit.  All of our institutions – government, school, church – must place an emphasis on responsible parenting.

The third fundamental building block of society is education.  Rather than endless debates over the minimum wage we should be focused on educating people for jobs that pay a living wage. And that includes preparing students for the hundreds of thousands of high paying jobs in manufacturing that go unfilled. Our education system must bring everyone up to the starting gate of their work life fully equipped.

Rather than looking at government, or the police, or around the room at others, repairing what is wrong with America begins with each of us.  We must strengthen our churches, our families and our communities.  Then, and only then will what we have witnessed in recent weeks become the exception rather than the rule.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Epic Failure in Baltimore


The real victim of the riots in Baltimore is the Left-wing philosophy of cradle-to-grave big government that has inevitably collapsed under the weight of its own faulty theories and inept implementation.  It wasn’t just a drug store that went up in flames; it was generations of nanny state public policy that got incinerated in Lord Baltimore’s burg.

If ever there was a poster child for a progressive Utopia it would be the city of Baltimore.  Nestled by the bay of the most liberal state in the union, Baltimore has been ruled by Democrats of the most Leftist variety for a half century.  As a majority black municipality, Baltimore is governed by an African-American mayor and city council.  The police chief is African-American as are three of the six officers involved in the tragedy that sparked the violence.

There is no way to claim racial under-representation.  Yet mostly young blacks took to the streets out of frustration to protest, and then riot in a desperate bid to be heard. With race not being a factor, the only conclusion that can be reached is that those governing the city, and the policies they champion, have failed.

Let us set aside for now the fact many of the rioters were simply taking advantage of the situation, and that the mayor’s handling of the riots was incompetent.  Rather, we should examine the root causes of the city’s failure, of which there are at least four:

The most significant factor contributing to the crisis is the decline of the family unit.  It is rare in such an instance of societal meltdown for one image to encapsulate the solution to the problem.  The mom who saw her son rioting, went out into the street, literally smacked him upside the head (repeatedly) and then dragged him home represents the ultimate solution.

Young people need somebody who cares; somebody who will be both a mentor and a disciplinarian.  The skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births has deprived many children of a stable two-parent household, and sadly in all too many cases, not even one responsible adult is present.  Policies that foster stronger family ties, rather than seeking to replace the family with government programs are a foundational step that must be taken.

Second, it is time to admit public education in our cities is a failure.  Federal, state and local school district spending on public education has far outpaced the rate of inflation for decades, yet our inner city public schools continue to fail.  Teacher unions and bloated bureaucracies, rather than students have been the prime beneficiaries of this taxpayer largess.  In some cities – Washington, D.C. is a prime example – charter schools have provided students and parents with choices.  But union opposition has kept charter schools from realizing their full potential and trapped students in under-performing schools.

Third, good job opportunities are a must.  The unemployment rate among African-Americans is more than double the national average, worse in urban cores.  Decades of overtaxation and hyper-regulation have driven business and industry out of cities.  As the good jobs have left, so too have the people qualified to hold them; leaving a largely unskilled workforce which serves as an additional disincentive to economic development.

And speaking of disincentives, our system of public welfare must be reformed to encourage recipients to seek the education or training that leads to employment.  Arcane and complex public assistance formulas often create welfare “cliffs” that make it more profitable for recipients to stay on welfare than to enter the work force.

The time has come for a complete reassessment of urban public policy.  Decades of experimenting with government centered solutions have clearly failed.  These progressive policies that trap people in poverty must be tossed out and replaced with a realistic approach based on time-proven principles that will help people move from poverty to prosperity.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolnisntitute.org)

Permission to reprint is granted provide author and affiliation are cited.

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