Posted in Facebook by Sheriff Paul Pastor, 1-22-2020, 9:00 p.m.
Tonight in Seattle: Shootings as No Surprise
Like many of you, I watched the news coverage of the shootings in Seattle tonight. I believe that both Seattle Police and Fire / Paramedics responded quickly and well. Chief Best’s on-scene media presentation was extremely good.
I was struck by the overall attitude of citizens and journalists alike; it was some variation on ”Yep, no surprise here.”
They spoke of being overly familiar with and very tired of the hourly insults to public order and the tacit tolerance which too often boils over into major assaults at the Courthouse and at McD’s and on buses and in homeless camps. It seems that people are suffering from crime and disorder fatigue syndrome.
It reminded me of a Sheriff’s Log I wrote last April entitled “Broken Windows in Washington.” In the log I discussed the 1982 article in the Atlantic by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson: “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety.”
As almost everyone knows, the article asserted that small transgressions of law and public order, if permitted to go unchallenged, would serve to encourage larger violations and transgressions. People in general (and particularly those inclined to criminal conduct or who have social inhibitions loosened by drugs or mental illness) will push boundaries and limits. If they find no resistance or re-direction, they will keep pushing.
The article applies all too well to cities in Western Washington and around the nation. We have neglected the mentally ill, under-funded drug treatment, frequently been dismissive of or overly critical of police. We see flaws in the criminal justice system (and there are flaws) and then rush to make rapid 180 degree changes in course because . . . well because if the current direction doesn’t work then the answer must be in the opposite directions.
So, if we think jail is not the answer to fixing low level violent street crime then the answer must be immediate release of those arrested. Right ? Besides, that “saves money ?” Right ? Same with drugs. If a drug addicted life style doesn’t seem to be changed by multiple arrests then the answer must be to allow people to just live a drug addled life style on the streets. The rationale seems to be: “These people with stop at nothing. So nothing is what we will do !” Same with repeated and even organized shoplifting. Same, sadly, with homeless mentally ill people.
We listen to great speeches about fairness and human dignity and then watch while poor street criminals and the helpless homeless variously ruin communities and go on to live in degradation and squalor.
So here we are again, shaking our heads and suffering more chronic crime and disorder fatigue. And once again, in Seattle and elsewhere, we have come to believe that a revolving door criminal justice system will certainly be improved if we can just get the door going as fast as the ceiling fan.
And, eventually the broken windows increase and the crimes increase and if the boundaries get pushed far enough, people end up dead in the streets.
But then, it seems that the crime and disorder will stop at nothing. So . . . those who are gravely addicted or mentally ill must be allow to choose. Right ? And to save money we can’t afford to provide involuntary treatment. Right ? Plus we need to expand personal choices (but without personal responsibility) . And to avoid interfering in people’s lives and to cut social spending and enhance freedom for people to ruin themselves, we choose to do nothing. And lo and behold, the outcome matches our actions.