CRIME CITY

Bullyboys and Bad Guys

Stop-and-frisk would clean out worst crime areas 
in Jacksonville

Posted

Wes Denham is the co-author of "Arrest-Proof 
Yourself" and author of "Arrested, What to Do When Your Loved One's in Jail." You can reach him at wesdenham.com.

There's something about whiskey, cocaine chloride and coitus that make young men, on a Saturday night, want to run out and fire their AKs into the skies. No doubt their young ladies are suitably delighted. Still, it's a pain, at my advanced age, to interrupt readings of the classics of literature and history in order to plop my fanny and my shih tzu down on the floor tiles until those crazy jits (dope kids) run out of ammo.

The Zone I (Springfield and Panama Park) cops know all about this, of course. They tell me that once gunfire erupts, they can't get rolling before the cheerful hoodlums have scampered back to their party pads and slammed the door. So, between cops and shooters, it's a stalemate.

It should be checkmate.

Florida has a stop-and-frisk law. It allows police to surge a high-crime area, frisk the bad boys and grab the guns, dope and cash, up close and personal. When concentrated on hot spots, this works. Using stop-and-frisk, New York City police helped transform Times Square from an XXX-rated pornhole into a dazzling center of commerce and entertainment that looks like Shanghai reimagined by Walt Disney.

Could stop-and-frisk work in Jacksonville? Possibly.

To stop and frisk, police will have to stop passively patrolling and responding to calls. They'll have to bounce out of their wheels and onto their shoes to hunt, stalk and cuff bad guys. Time-servers can't do this job. It requires knuckleheads; i.e., real police.

This is extremely dangerous. You're asking cops to tackle guys who will kill you for disturbing their hairstyle. At present, our officers are not properly equipped. They wear bullet-resistant vests, but those will only stop handgun rounds up to 9 mm. Big bullets, such as .50 caliber, and high-velocity rifle rounds, will go right through them. They need composite ceramic armor fore and aft to clean out hellholes like Moncrief, East Springfield and the Wild Westside.

These plates aren't cheap, about one large bill per set at wholesale. Outfit a few hundred cops and you're at half-a-million in a heartbeat. Still, if you squeeze the JSO budget of $345 million, you can get some grease.

To be successful, stop-and-frisk requires preparation of the legal and political ground. This means countless meetings with community groups, church congregations and elected officials, so everyone understands that the purpose is to stop killers, not to hassle African-Americans and Hispanics. Our sheriff is nothing if not a deft politician, and community outreach is his specialty.

Yes, there will be lawsuits. So what? Litigation is tolerable; murder is not.

Stop-and-frisk is constitutional, but it has to be done right. New York City police overreached. They made stops that were random rather than reasonable, and they're being spanked by federal judges. Jacksonville can benefit from their mistakes.

There are concerns:

Police will shoot or beat up innocent people. In Jacksonville, officers are well-disciplined in the use of force. I've interviewed many bleeding defendants over the years. Most of the time, the beatdown came not from the cops, but from former lovers, current creditors and those informal eviction specialists known as "the guys with the bats."

Police will trample Fourth Amendment rights against warrantless search and seizure. On occasion, they may. Mostly, they won't, as long as they hammer hoodlums.

Cops are profiling. Of course they are. Law enforcement databases have become accessible from cruiser laptops. This means cops can target bad guys in bad places where the bullets fly. That's what they're supposed to do.

Cops are too dumb to follow the law. The statute requires, prior to the stop, a "founded suspicion" that the person of interest has committed, or is about to commit, a crime. A "mere suspicion" is not enough. Where do cops find a founded suspicion? On the database and on the clock. In high-crime neighborhoods, between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., citizens sleep (or cower) indoors while bad guys bang and ball on the streets. Nearly everyone cops stop will have a criminal record or incident report.

The bad guys will just go elsewhere. No, they won't. Crooks are territorial. If cops stop them and frisk them on a corner on Talleyrand, they can't just motor up to Norwood and start slinging dope. Those spots are taken.

Cops will upset the pecking order, which causes more violence. Cops are supposed to upset things. Get enough illegal guns and gunners off the streets, and there will be more order and less pecking.

Readers will be astonished that the author of books that decry bullyboy police tactics, cop dirty tricks and mass arrests of petty offenders should advocate that the cops, heavily armored, charge into certain neighborhoods like rhinoceroses with a badge.

It's a no-brainer.

I live on the edge of Springfield. One block west, heiresses muddle mojitos in lux, renovated homes. One block east, you can order Chinese-knockoff machine-guns for takeout, neatly wrapped in paper, like dead fish.

What some call hypocrisy, I call nuance. Unsurprisingly, the closer you are to live bullets and dead bodies, the more nuanced you get,

In Crime City.

4 comments on this story | Add your comment
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nellekay123

It always sounds like a good plan to put more cops on the street and give them additional protection and the ability to stop and frisk people in high crime areas, but things are rarely as simple as this...seems like there would be too much opportunity for abuse to me.... Saturday, August 31, 2013|Report this

sanmarcodude

This dude says he's reading the great books when the bullets fly, but he writes like he's reads nothing but pulp fiction. Probably wears a fedora and thinks a cigar should cost a nickel! Tuesday, September 3, 2013|Report this

wesdenham

Nellekay is right. We should be worried about cops abusing stop & frisk. However, this depends on where you live. In L.A. the cops are animals; in Miami they often WORK for the bad guys. Here in Jax, they're remarkably well trained.

Your point of view depends on where you stand. A year ago I was riding my bicycle in sunny Police Zone I when I rolled up to a "dope buoy." This was a rusty heap perforated with hundreds of bullet holes and dripping protoplasm from the trunk. It was left to warn the neighborhood not to cross the local godfather. My feelings for cops got warmer and fuzzier after that.

Of course, if I were married to my mythical rich widow and living on the river off San Jose, I'd be hollering about police brutality too, but as an abstract construct to be savored along with a fine Rioja, properly aged and aired. Tuesday, September 3, 2013|Report this

Autumleaves

Mr. Denham may be quite correct in his assessment. Gangbangers, drug dealers, pimps, ladies of the evening and general miscreants could well be taken off the streets of Jacksonville and I, for one, would be much happier. It is sad commentary that the police have to "duck and cover" as do residents. My feeling is clear them out, put them up and let God sort 'em out. Just bring us back our town, our streets as they were in the past. This used to be a nice place to live, now it's pretty darned dicey. Wednesday, September 4, 2013|Report this

 
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