Fix troubled communities by focusing on poverty, not policing
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