- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Justice Department official said Thursday that Jim Crow laws of the 1800s are still an influence for many police squads across the nation and these policing tactics need to be abolished in order to improve relations between communities and law enforcement.

“We’re still operating on some system that was used to enforce Jim Crow laws, that were used to oppress people,” Ronald Davis, Community Oriented Policing Services director for the Department of Justice, said at an event at the Center for American Progress. “These are operational systems and policies and practices that exist today.”

Mr. Davis admonished the influence of the “Jim Crow” era on modern-day policing tactics, such as use of excessive force, the practice of over-policing minority neighborhoods, and disproportionately arresting minorities for low-level crimes.

Mr. Davis told The Washington Times that he is concerned that the tensions tied to the Jim Crow era still have an impact on “anything from how we incarcerate to how we sentence to why we police and how we police.”

As a result, good officers are sometimes put in positions where they produce bad outcomes simply because the system ” is disparate to incarceration of young men of color,” Mr. Davis said. Mass incarceration and statistical drops in crime “cannot be the priority of public safety or law enforcement,” he said.

“We have the opportunity and, quite frankly, the obligation to re-define policing in a democratic society,” said Mr. Davis, in his speech Thursday. “People are talking about a cultural shift and we have to start with what is the role of police in a democratic society.”

But John Malcolm, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, countered that some police efforts to crack down on crime require officers to maintain a heavy presence in areas that are largely impoverished and heavily populated with black people.

But for as many black people who commit crimes in those areas there are also many black people who are victims of those crimes and deserve police protection, he said.

“If that means that they have to spend a lot of time in communities with people of color because that’s where the most crimes are occurring and the most crimes are being reported, there is nothing wrong with that,” Mr. Malcolm said. “And there is nothing racist about that and that is not a vestige of Jim Crow laws.”

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