Conflicts between communities and police have erupted into riots in recent years, prompting headlines and intervention from the federal government. It's changed the way police go about their business. But if the duty of the police is to protect and to serve, are the changes making us safer? Though crime overall is down from its high in the early nineties, murder and violent crime have gone up in the last two years. President Trump has promised to renew 'law and order'. Joce Sterman takes a look, at the new Policing in America.
Ferguson, Missouri, in the summer of 2014, riots erupted after the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer. It also triggered a vigorous and sometimes violent debate over the relationship between police and minorities. In April of 2015, Baltimore erupted in riots after the death of a black suspect in police custody. The death of Freddie Gray unleashed weeks of fury.
Kevin Davis: It's one person at a time, one day at a time.
Kevin Davis is Baltimore's Police Commissioner. He was promoted to the job in 2015, after the riots and immediately faced calls for a change in police tactics.
Davis: There's never going to be a final chapter to all this, you know. We're never going to reach that point where 100% of the population loves the police.
In Baltimore, changing tactics wasn't completely a matter of choice. The city and Department of Justice agreed to sweeping police reforms to stop overly aggressive tactics and restore trust in city cops.
Davis: We've been policing in a way over the past you know, ten, twenty plus years that has really upset the community, and it's really driven a big gap between the police department and the community.
Gone now are strategies like 'Stop and Frisk' and 'zero tolerance' policing. The DOJ claims those and other tactics have created problems in two dozen cities.
Davis: And any community, no matter where you are, wants its police department to lock up bad guys. Murderers, rapists, robbers, burglars, thieves, arsonists. There's really no question about that, but when it comes to some of the discretionary enforcement efforts that our profession has engaged in all too often, that I think we're making our way away from, it's those discretionary enforcement efforts and initiatives, particularly in poor communities, particularly in African-American and underserved communities that have really upset entire communities.
Heather MacDonald: Cops are backing off of proactive policing in high crime areas, and as a result, violent crime is rising at a dramatic rate.
Heather Macdonald, author of the book "The War on Cops," says police can't afford to back off too much.
MacDonald: After the riots in Baltimore, the Freddie Gray riots, drug enforcement just ended in Baltimore and shootings went through the roof. Recently a Pew poll came out, of officers, 72 percent said that they less likely now to make pedestrian stops, to engage in proactive policing. Arrests are down in Los Angeles, they're certainly down in New York.
There are consequences. In 2015, FBI stats show the biggest jump in homicides in years. Twenty-five of America's largest cities upped drastically. One of them, Chicago, has become a murder capital. The city had more than 750 homicides last year, and arrests were down.
Macdonald: That is a very very bad sign because the law-abiding residents of high crime areas beg the police for public order enforcement. But when the elites, when the mainstream media, when the White House is sending the message that that type of policing is racist, we shouldn't be surprised when cops back off. And when they do, again, it's minority lives that suffer.
Donald Trump: Law and order must be restored.
Then candidate Trump called for change. With Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, it's obvious there's been a return to a "police first" mentality at the Department of Justice.
Donald Trump: More law enforcement, more community engagement, more effective policing is what our country needs desperately.
But at the local level words matter. Resident: I need help.
Davis: We're here to help you.
Leaders like Davis talk about the danger of phrases like 'law and order' that can be taken as a threat.
Joce: Like we're going to come in here and crack skulls?
Joce: So does that hurt you when that is said: We're a "law and order" administration?
Joce: It fosters fear almost?
Davis: Fear and anxieties and I think it tells people we're willing to roll back the clock on some advancements that we have made.
And in Baltimore some of those advancements are measured in hearts and minds.
Davis: I'm gonna give this to you. Know what this is? It's called a challenge coin. It's yours.