On Baltimore

As I write this, six police officers have just been charged in Freddie Grey’s murder and Baltimore remains under curfew in the wake of last Monday’s riots. Much commentary seems focused on assigning blame. In the post, I’d like to focus instead on the consequences and moving forward.

Addressing Police Conduct

The community desperately needs to hear more about models for better policing and to implement them. There have been major protests against police brutality and other vehement defenses of the police. But there is not nearly enough discussion of how to do it right.

I’d love to see discussion of places that have reduced complaints against the police even as they remain tough on crime. We want the police to fight crime in all neighborhoods. After all, the sharp drop in Baltimore’s murder rate means that hundreds of people–mainly African American–are walking around who would otherwise be dead.

But we also don’t want police treating everyone like a criminal. Even under the “broken windows” theory, the idea is to stop people who have committed minor crimes–not just for going about your business. Has any place figured out a better approach so that the police can do their tough job with fewer abuses and gain more confidence from the community?

Economic Damage

Last Monday’s riots have done long-term damage to Baltimore that will require concerted effort to reverse.

Neighborhoods that already lack businesses lost them and they may not come back. Many jobs held by working people doing their best to earn a living have been lost. If businesses do come back, their insurance rates will likely go up.

Equally devastating is that people who may have once thought about investing in Baltimore will likely go elsewhere and take the jobs and the revenue that they would have generated with them. The City and the Governor are going to have to work together to rebuild confidence in Baltimore.

Economic and Social Recovery

The economic debate can often seem as frustrating as the one surrounding the police. Left-wing types point to the crushing poverty in West Baltimore while right-wing types focus on a lack of responsibility by citizenry. The irony is that both narratives have something to offer but work better together than in isolation.

Well-distributed economic growth has more power than any anti-poverty program. Bill Clinton wasn’t known for awhile as “America’s first black President” because he played the sax but due to the dramatic drop in African-American unemployment with many previously marginal workers brought into the workforce with steady long-term growth.

At the same time, we have to do all we can to provide a helping hand for people willing to work hard and pay their taxes, as Bill Clinton often used to say when running for President in 1992. No doubt people like Pastor Donte Hickman, who has long toiled to provide those opportunities and fight for justice, has good ideas on how to do that. We should listen to them.

And It’s Not 1968

In 1968, blacks were essentially outside the power structure. Today, that’s no longer the case with the Mayor, State’s Attorney, and Police Chief along with many police being African Americans. It isn’t stopping their constituents from holding them–or the white politicians who also represent them–accountable. And that’s as it should be.

Doing Something

Courtney Snowden is a businesswoman and parent who ran for an at-large seat on the D.C. City Council in 2014. Though she lost, Courtney gained a lot of deserved respect along the way and has now joined the Bowser administration. I think she had about the smartest advice I’ve heard in the wake of recent events:

Wanna know how to end this brutality against our people? Vote. Run for office. Join the police force. Become a teacher. Mentor a child and help them become a fully functional adult. Protest the systematic oppression of our people, but do it without burning down the few places where low skilled workers can work. Open a business and hire from the community. Learn how to code. Develop an app. Make some money and donate to the candidates and causes that support the creation of an ism free world. Invest in yourselves and your communities.

Become the change you want to see, and then spread it around. I left the private sector to work in government because I am tired of complaining about it. I want to take meaningful responsibility for doing something about it. Join me.