h/t Herbert Richmond
How Times Have Changed
Some people, misled by the outcry of extremists against “police brutality” and the incitations of black agitators against the maintenance of law and order, may be surprised that the latest demand for uncompromising law enforcement comes from the New York branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The organization has called for an immediate halt to “the reign of criminal terror in Harlem” and has stated that police brutality has been superseded by criminal brutality.
Vincent Baker, chairman of the anti-crime committee of the New York N. A. A. C. P., said, “It is not police brutal- ity that makes people afraid to walk the streets at night.” He added that “with people here being beaten, robbed, and murdered, something should be done about crime right now.” A report of the organization said that “the attitude toward crime and criminals must change” in Harlem.
“There are people known to cheer when some offender rushes from a store” with his loot, Mr. Baker said. “They seem to have the idea that these are some sort of 20th century Robin Hoods. With the ‘hoods’ we agree.”
The N. A. A. C. P. called for more policemen on Harlem beats and armed guards in every house in all public hous- ing projects. It asked for swifter action of court cases and provision of “tickets back home” to combat “the menace of vagrancy.” It also demanded harsher sentences, among them a 10 year minimum for narcotics sellers, at least 20 years for those convicted of first de-gree murder, and five years for muggers, with no time off for good behavior.
Mugging, the N. A. A. C. P. said, is the crime “which induces more stark terror” than any other. This offense combines assault and robbery. Surveys have shown a high incidence of repeaters among those convicted of this crime. They have usual-ly been sentenced to little more than a year.
The N. A. A. C. P. demands for stricter law enforcement and more severe penalties are in the pattern of previous surveys in Negro areas which have invariably demonstrated that black people want more, not less, protection from police and the law.
A Harlem survey reported in September, 1966, stated, “Problems of police brutality are conspicuous by their absence. It appears that police malpractice is an issue in Harlem only insofar as the police are inadequate in doing their job. Police brutality, as such, was not a volunteered problem of concern for the people of Harlem.”
The Harlem survey showed that dope addiction was considered a more important concern than substandard housing. The worst problems were listed as crime in the streets, nominated by 28 percent of those polled; dope addiction, 20 percent; the need for better police protection, 15 percent, and murderers and drunks in the hallways of buildings, 3 percent.
A similar study released by a Senate subcommittee studying urban problems and a poll taken in the Watts section of Los Angeles, where there was a riot in 1965, produced similar findings. More than 50 percent of those polled in Watts said either that there was no police brutality at all or that they were not sure of its existence.
These surveys, and the N. A. A. C. P. call for action in New York, demonstrate the fallacy of the usual sociological view that everybody, especially “society,” is to blame for crime, rioting, and violence. The majority of hard-working, law-abiding Negroes want protection, not from “white oppression,” but from a small criminal minority which makes decent living all but impossible in disturbed areas of the cities.
Herbert Richmond is a regular contributor to the Sentinel through his outstanding research.