This story made my cranium explode like Krakatoa, and it really scared my dog. If it doesn’t make your head explode, I am worried about you. I’m worried about you anyway. I’m worried about all of us.
UW Director of Community Relations Everett Mitchell, speaking at a University of Wisconsin Madison panel dealing with “Best Policing Practices,” argued that police should stop responding to shoplifting and thefts at Wal-Mart and Target in order to reduce what he refers to as “over policing” of the community. Yes, he really believes that enforcing the law regarding property crimes against retailers is “over-policing.” Mitchell, an employee of an institution that exists to enlighten the young and impressionable, said that communities should be able to decide for themselves what laws should be enforced, and that the ultimate goal of law enforcement is not the actual enforcement of law, but community safety as defined by the community itself. If the community thinks declaring open season on the local Walmart—looting, essentially—is just fine, then the police shouldn’t arrest anyone for it. Theft from big box stores, he explained, is an example of a crime that police and the community may view differently.
How the owner of the stores that get robbed, the employees that will lose jobs when the store leaves to relocate someplace that doesn’t think theft is “safe,” and the families that will have no place to shop might feel about his plan was not discussed. Mitchell, you see, is an irresponsible idiot.
He was also formerly an assistant District Attorney in the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. He must have been great at that job.
“I just don’t think that they should be prosecuting cases or bringing up cases for people who steal from Wal-Mart. I just don’t think that, right? I don’t think Target or all them other places, them big box stores that have insurance. They should be using justification, the fact that people steal from there as justification to start engaging in aggressive police practices, right?”
Right…Huh? I’m sorry, the noise from my head blast made it hard to hear you.
After his comments were reported, with many resulting head explosions, Mitchell came out with one of those “my words didn’t mean what I said” explanations, and he still didn’t make any sense. Apparently with he help of an editor and a proof-reader, he wrote in part:
“My comments around “big box” retailers were in no way an endorsement of shoplifting or other criminal behavior, but part of a point about how the distribution of police resources to areas with high numbers of misdemeanor crimes can bring low income or people of color into frequent contact with law enforcement.As it relates to misdemeanor offenses themselves, I believe the community should explore a restorative justice model in which non-violent offenders between the ages of 17 to 25 perform community service. Through my many roles, I believe in working with law enforcement and the community to reduce disparities, while also ensuring Madison is a safe place for everyone.”
Naturally, Madison will be a safer place if thieves are allowed to run wild in Walmarts and Targets.
This is the same demented message as before, just more carefully stated. Police have to stop arresting people for stealing things from stores. (Note that he didn’t explain how his “insurance” remark was misinterpreted, since he can’t.) Mitchell’s logic is cracked, and his values are shredded.
If cops responding to thefts “bring low income or people of color into frequent contact with law enforcement,” the solution is for low income or people of color to stop stealing. Irresponsible community leaders like Mitchell trivializing theft will only lead to more theft. His “restorative justice model” simply makes crime pay. A criminal calculates the risk of being caught and the likely punishment against the benefits of stealing, and with this “model,” which is simply “don’t punish crime,” the calculation is easy. Take a shot: what’s to lose?
These are the kinds of crackpot theories we can expect to hear more from Bernie and Hillary as the fake crisis of “over-incarceration” is cynically injected into the list of progressive issues designed to win the votes of the friends, families and supporters of criminals—admittedly a large group. There are very, very few people in prison who haven’t broken criminal laws, and most of them have done so many times, the first few times without being imprisoned at all. I worked as a public defender and took court appointed cases: I can’t think of a single case where a first time offender, regardless of his race, was thrown in jail. I was recently in court for a day and watched several sentencings in Virginia. One crook–he was the kind of thief, exactly, that Everett Mitchell thinks isn’t worth the police’s time–had been charged with thefts four times before without ever serving a prison sentence. I knew we’d eventually get to Mitchell’s solution to over-incarceration: don’t enforce the law. Look the other way. Not doing so is “over-policing.”
A university director of community relations who makes such irresponsible suggestions in public is affirmatively dangerous. He should not have a job or a title that leads to an”approving murmur from the audience” of ignorant and gullible people who agree that stealing from stores with insurance isn’t really a crime. If he wants to proclaim such anti-social theories, Mitchell should carry a sign and shout in the park. on his own behalf.
It’s also a lot less messy if people’s heads explode outside.
Pointer: Rick Jones