The Numbers and Ramarley Graham



I want to highly recommend Chris Smith's piece on Ray Kelly and the officers he commands. I've blogged some about the tragedy of Ramarley Graham. Smith puts the young man's death in context:

Cops fear a more serious consequence of the push for better numbers, that it propels colleagues forward in borderline situations. This February, in the Bronx, a narcotics cop chased 18-year-old Ramarley Graham into the bathroom of his family's apartment. Officer Richard Haste suspected Graham of carrying a gun; during a struggle he shot and killed the unarmed man. One ex-cop, who has worked some of the same streets as Haste, says it appears tragic tactical mistakes were made. 

"But it's important to remember that cops always have the need for numbers in their minds," he says. "It might not be the top cause of what happened, him chasing the guy into the house, but it's part of the motivation getting you to that position. You're trying to get in there and get that body. So is it the pressure of 'I can't let this guy get away'? Or is he a number?"
In fairness to Kelly, there is significant--and for some reason rarely noticed--pressure in black communities to bring down crime. But at the same time, there is equally significant pressure to not trample on the rights of innocent people who happen to live in high crime areas. It is not so hard to see how these two objectives could come into conflict. But what Smith points out is the continuing effort to show a "crime drop," and to show high arrest numbers has turned tragically cartoonish. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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