Detroit Mobile Strike Force Gun Grabs: Racial Profiling?


Don’t get me wrong: I don’t particularly want to talk about racial profiling. I think it’s one of those “great taste, less filling” deals. In other words, it is if you think it is. (whatever is is). Best to talk about legal, efficient and effective policing, rather than analyzing the ethnic makeup of the people caught in the net. But hey, this morning’s Detroit Free Press raises the issue in a long, rambling article about police efforts to get guns off the streets. Cops prowl Detroit for Guns goes there—but pisses off in record time. In fact, this is it: “[The Mobile Strike Force’s] methods of finding them [gun and drug-toting miscreants] — stopping jaywalkers and questioning loiterers — are spurring criticism from some who say police are manufacturing reasons to profile young, black men and violating their rights.” After that, scribe Amber Hunt presents a farrago of stop-‘n-frisk issues, anecdotes and stats. Of which I’ll share with you . . .

I

n a city where an average of three people are shot every day, Chief Warren Evans said the only way to combat guns is to get the illegal ones off the street. If that means stopping people breaking minor laws, he said, so be it.

By early May, the strike force had confiscated nearly 1,500 firearms in 2010. Evans credits that and increased street patrols with 99 fewer nonfatal shootings and 40 fewer homicides this year as of Tuesday.

Yet the gains can become lost amid a spate of gunfire deaths. Among the victims: a 17-year-old killed for giving a man a dirty look, a grandmother hit by an errant bullet and a 15-year-old honor student shot in a drive-by.

It’s so easy to get distracted when writing this type of story. Especially when the po-po let you ride shotgun, watching them harass people in the name of gun control. Anyway, the palaver over Arizona’s new immigration law kinda applies here. Broken taillights leading to arrests. But Detroit’s Mobile Task Force (as opposed to sedentary?) does what immigration rights folk fear: collaring people of color for jaywalking. And loitering.

The officers’ search methods are under scrutiny. Some question whether walking in the street or gathering at a vacant lot is enough probable cause to warrant a stop and search. The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has questioned the tactics, calling them “overwhelming” and “military-style,” and accused Chief Warren Evans of allowing officers to be too aggressive.

Detroit Deputy Mayor Saul Green said that Evans’ efforts largely have been successful. Homicides and nonfatal shootings are down, while the closure rate on homicide cases has increased since Evans took over last July, he said.

Green acknowledged, however, that he and Mayor Dave Bing are working with Evans to “communicate better about the work.”

Hence this article.

comments

  1. avatar Donal Fagan says:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-05-11/news/nypd-

    Detroit's stop and search is similar to the tactics described in the Village Voice's NYPD tapes. And it isn't racial profiling, it is class profiling. In much of the world, ownership of weapons has often been limited to a privileged class, by law, training, or both. With weapons go status and freedom.

    Urban officials have a point that reckless use of guns is more of a problem in cities than in rural areas, but they seem to be safeguarding a minority, a privileged minority, of citizens.

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