4. Do some police departments still engage in the "aggressive preventative patrol" strategies that led to the urban riots of the 1960s and the publishing of the 1968 Kerner Commission Report? Are there any similarities or differences between those strategies and the strategies used in the Kansas City Gun Experiment?
One could argue that on other issues, any sting operation, such as those conducted on specified geographic locations for street prostitution or drug enforcement or even electronic crime stings is a model similar to this, as the officers are focusing specifically on one issue and are not required, during operations to answer traditional patrol calls. Though, this model is more a future deterrent model than a prevention model. Riots occur as a result of whole groups of individuals feeling particularly targeted, rather than protected by police. Harassment is a highly interpretive concept and issues such as, racial profiling or random traffic blockades may make many feel harassed rather than protected. The differences between those strategies which resulted in the 1960s urban riots and those implemented by the Kansa City Gun Experiment are the careful attention to supervisory permission for issues regarding seizure and other potential civil rights violations and also the much more progressed sense of the rights of the criminal, in any given situation.
Newark's rebellion in the summer of 1967 had been anticipated for years, ever since rioting began in cities like Rochester and Cleveland. The governmental response in Newark was intense. Armed state and local police and the national guard were brought in. Heavy war machinery including armored tanks and even army helicopters were deployed. The resultant battle was a brutal one and served to intensify emergent black power and separatism. (Conforti, 1973, p. 74)
The emphasis on community policing has also curtailed the riot effects of the 1960s policing as it was learned from the Kerner Commission that those areas where police and national guardsmen developed a rapport with the people were the least likely to escalate into serious violence and therefore officers in non-riot situations performing aggressive preventative patrols are more likely to ask questions and interact with the community, performing helpful service publicly, rather than firing warning shots into the air, while a potential sniper is in the midst, a situation documented in the Kerner report that created an escalation of violence rather than prevention. Though these systems are in place, they are not perfect and the occurrence of violence and rioting is still occasioned, as can be seen very recently in Los Angeles and Seattle, and often times the social, economic and political issues that drive the riots to fruition have little if anything to do with the police force and its action or inaction, though excessive force rejection riots, such as the Los Angeles Riot over the Rodney King incident is a good example of how technology has changed policing and how easily one or a few individual officers can begin to engage in violations of the law through an abuse of power that create dangerous social situations with potentially explosive results, i.e. The officers where videotaped engaging in abusive behavior that was undeniable. The real rioting occurred only after the channels of the official legal response to the incident failed to satisfactorily sanction the officers involved.
The whole of the system in Los Angels and all over the nation is in a period of transition that involves extreme care and caution with regard to such issues as the excessive use of force, and issue that needs to be under constant scrutiny from everyone involved and is being answered by implementation of such systems as the Miami-Dade Identification System, where cumulative information on individual officers is kept current with regard to use of force incidences and other misconduct and in reversal commendations and is used to determine a great many things about the present and future position of individual officers. Change is clearly in order, but the mob mentality and riots will likely occur indefinitely, especially within the situations of economic unrest that frequently plague whole geographic areas, communities and even whole races of people.
5. How has policing changed since the 1960s? What strategies, tactics or philosophies in use today can be said to be the same? What can be said to be different? What should police do today to reduce the potential for urban riots occurring again.
If a riot is expected non-lethal methods are more likely to be used, and only when absolutely necessary.
When such situations are heightened, and riot potential is projected, especially at preplanned events such as protests and parades riot patrols tend to look more like protectors of the rights of the protestors, standing idly aside rather than the full bore riot line seen only in extreme situations. Civil rights laws and the implementations of such laws have become an essential and pervasive aspect of policing in the modern era and there is little doubt that these changes have seriously affected the potential for riot behavior and other blanket crime behavior in the U.S. Though rioting clearly occurs on a semi-regular basis in the United States, as does public protest the results are usually a quickly contained situation of limited geographic area. Civil rights have changed the face of the police response to potentially escalating situations as agencies are more aware than ever before of the rights of criminal and/or suspected criminals as well as victims and the public to be treated in a certain manner. Additionally, law enforcement has learned the hard way that each individual wearing or using a badge to do their job is ultimately a representative of the whole of the agency and/or authority of the people. With this knowledge law enforcement has altered the manner in which it conducts business, and represents itself in word and action in almost every situation. This can be seen over and over again, even in the dramatic re-representations of law enforcement activities, such as late night programs that replay police tape footage at traffic stops, when professional officers respond calmly and respectfully even in the face of the most abusive and angry offenders.
Police agencies must continue to work in a multi-agency manner to create systems and subsystems, beyond simply the maintenance and training of a full riot detail by helping the community create a full response system of prevention. This should include an education aspect where young people are aware of the historical destruction that has occurred through rioting in the past as well as state and local regulations regarding legal forms of protest. Legal forms of protest and even parades, in most cities require prior-authorization by several entities, and the police knowing of such events is crucial, as is the knowledge of every law enforcement official from the street beat cop to the riot detail being aware of the rights and unlawful behaviors of the protesters. The communication between agencies is growing as city and local officials become more and more aware of the need to address certain situations on a cooperative level. This is a trend that will likely continue to decrease the potential for rioting in the future. Additionally, law enforcement agencies and other interested parties must continue to be diligent in training with regard to sensitivity and also with regard to good solid community policing policies and procedures. The police must also better learn to balance the release of information to the public, and the media through careful consideration of the needs of the public. Creating a dramatic news program is secondary to making sure that people are not seeded with a sense of overall fear with regard to situations. Mitigation, will also prove to be an even greater tool in law enforcement than it has ever been as more and more agencies require it to evaluate past performance in situations or riot and unrest, as well as in situations where police misconduct is reported or even rumored.
Brezina, T., & Wright, J.D. (2000). Going Armed in the School Zone. Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, 15(4), 82.
Conforti, J.M. (1973). Newark: Ghetto or City?. In Ghetto Revolts, Rossi, P.H. (Ed.) (pp. 59-86). New Brunswick, NJ E.P. Dutton.