Fix trou­bled com­mu­ni­ties by fo­cus­ing on poverty, not polic­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

The June 16 Metro ar­ti­cle “Sen­a­tors to push post-Gray mea­sures” re­ported that Sen. Bar­bara Mikul­ski (D-Md.) “touted crim­i­nal jus­tice ad­di­tions to the ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill” in re­sponse to the death of Fred­die Gray in Bal­ti­more. Her words could be taken to mean that po­lice of­fi­cers are the prob­lem. But these com­mu­ni­ties need more than bet­ter po­lice train­ing and re­port­ing of crime data. Con­sider other ar­ti­cles printed the same day: “Po­lice seek­ing 4 young rob­bers in 3 in­ci­dents; some pre­teens” [Metro]; “Teen, 15, charged in 2 fa­tal stab­bings” [Lo­cal Di­gest] and “Mo­tive un­known in slay­ing of ice cream truck driver” [Metro]. Clearly, the po­lice did not in­cite the be­hav­ior re­ported in these ar­ti­cles.

The June 11 Pol­i­tics & the Na­tion ar­ti­cle “How poverty af­fects learn­ing abil­ity” re­ported that a study by a “left-lean­ing think tank” iden­ti­fied five causes of poor school per­for­mance: “par­ent­ing prac­tices in low-in­come house­holds, sin­gle par­ent­hood, ir­reg­u­lar work sched­ules of par­ents in low-wage jobs, poor ac­cess to health care and ex­po­sure to lead.” These things prob­a­bly are among the root causes of eco­nomic and so­cial prob­lems in these com­mu­ni­ties. One of the study’s con­clu­sions was that the money be­ing spent in the class­room is wasted. The same could be said of the $98 mil­lion pro­posed for im­prov­ing po­lice-com­mu­nity re­la­tion­ships and the $295 mil­lion for ju­ve­nile jus­tice pro­grams.

If we spent some of that money on lead-paint re­moval, par­ent­ing classes and the other things that the think tank’s study con­cluded cause poor school per­for­mance, I bet our com­mu­ni­ties would im­prove, too.

Michael Fin­negan, Kens­ing­ton

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