Truthout, September 13, 2022
Across the United States, Democratic politicians are renewing their commitments to 1990s-era crime policies. From New York City Mayor Eric Adams instructing the NYPD to increase misdemeanor arrests, to the Detroit police cracking down on noise and “urban blight,” to Los Angeles’s City Council intensifying the criminalization of homeless people, the hallmarks of broken windows policing are heralded as solutions to the supposedly unprecedented national crime surge. At the national level, President Biden’s “Safer America Plan” promises to increase federal funding for local law enforcement and put 100,000 more cops on the streets in community policing programs — a direct repeat of President Bill Clinton’s notorious C.O.P.S program, which distributed millions of federal funds to law enforcement, escalating policing and arrests nationwide.
While proponents pretend that such practices do not constitute broken windows policing tactics but “quality of life” or “community policing,” in fact, there has never been a division between these policing practices, logics or outcomes. While technocratic criminal justice practitioners advocate for these policies as simply following “evidence-based practices,” this is simply not the case. We are witnessing a liberal law-and-order backlash to anti-racist activism against policing. Through scapegoating abolitionist movements to defund the police and more moderate criminal justice reforms as the source of violent crime, Democrats are returning to the very playbooks that propelled mass incarceration.
One place we can clearly see this dynamic occurring is in New Orleans. After years of grassroots success in pushing city leaders to enact criminal justice reforms, the mayor and city council of New Orleans have implemented a series of tough-on-crime policies throughout 2022. Predicated on the false assertion that the current murder rate in New Orleans has reached heights not witnessed since the 1990s, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has championed the relaunch of a gang unit, the repeal of the city’s ban on facial recognition surveillance and the attempt to end the federal consent decree over the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). Such moves coincide with incarcerated people protesting inhumane conditions at the jail under New Orleans’s new “progressive” sheriff, and District Attorney Jason Williams going back on his campaign promise not to try juveniles as adults.