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‘Lock People Up? We Haven’t Got the Heart for That’

Whistle past the graveyard all you like, but even if you’re whistling “Rule Britannia,” the graveyard will still be there. (And don't miss Ed Driscoll: "Nobody Mention the Culture War.")

by
Jack Dunphy

Bio

August 23, 2011 - 12:11 am
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But now, what’s to be done about it all?  Seeking solutions to Britain’s crime problem, Cameron has reached out to William Bratton, former head of the police departments in Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, who has agreed to be an unpaid adviser on gangs and street crime.  As one might expect, Cameron’s solicitation of Bratton was received less than warmly by police officials in England.  Sir Hugh Orde, Great Britain’s chief constable, was dismissive of what Bratton might contribute to the discussion.  “I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them,” Orde told the Independent.  “It seems to me, if you’ve got 400 gangs, then you’re not being very effective.  If you look at the style of policing in the States, and their levels of violence, they are so fundamentally different from here.”

Well, who better?  I’ve had my bones to pick with Bratton over the years, but his record on cutting crime speaks for itself.  If he has something to contribute to the discussion, why not listen?  And it should be noted that the gang problem in Los Angeles predates William Bratton’s arrival.  There were more than 51,000 violent crimes in Los Angeles the year before he became chief of the LAPD, but by the time he moved on that figure had been cut by more than half.  Can Orde, or any other police executive in England, claim even a remotely similar level of accomplishment?

Bratton’s methods are simple enough: enforce the law and let violators suffer the consequences.  Writing at the City Journal website, Steven Malanga quotes an unnamed Scotland Yard official who described his unease at the thought of seeing Bratton’s ways employed in England.  “Lock people up?” he said.  “We haven’t got the heart for that over here.”

Just so.  But there’s nothing quite like a riot to inspire a change of heart, is there?

Orde and the rest can pretend that the rioting seen in England was nothing more than the antics of some wayward youths, like Bertie Wooster pinching a policeman’s helmet on Boat Race Night.  You can whistle past the graveyard all you like, but even if you’re whistling “Rule Britannia,” the graveyard will still be right there.

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Jack Dunphy is the pseudonym of a police officer in Southern California.
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