Good Police

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

We spend a lot of time here documenting the problems in policy as well as execution regarding law enforcement. Acknowledging that slant I think it's important to highlight those instances when things go right:


In an alcove between two gray apartment buildings, children watered a freshly planted garden in the same space where dealers used to sell thousands of bags of cheap drugs. Nearby, on East 117th Street, a young boy hopped, skipped and performed handstands on the same ground where hundreds of customers, high from the hallucinogen PCP, might once have sauntered by. 

"We haven't had this in a long time," Sharon Lewis, 55, said as she looked hopefully around the housing complex. "If they keep doing things like this, it'll be much better compared to what it was before." Ms. Lewis was referring to the lingering reputation of the Milbank-Frawley public housing complex, at 117th Street and Madison Avenue, a place where just months ago, people would flock to buy $10 bags of PCP. 

But on Saturday, community members filled the area in celebration of, among other things, the indictment and arrest of people suspected of involvement in that drug ring. Most sang praises of the police efforts. But there was still some worry that the drug could return.

There's obviously a drug war critique to made here. But when you live in a neighborhood overrun by drug-dealing, and the accompanying violence, your greatest concern is that you and your family can ensure for yourselves some sort of safety. 

Nearly ten years ago, a young man put a gun to my wife's head and demanded her purse a few doors down from our Brooklyn apartment. The cops eventually caught the dude. As it turned out he'd been sticking up women in the neighborhood for weeks. He also was addicted drugs.  But this was the second time I'd almost lost my best friend. I started multiplying that across the other women in the neighborhood, and with that in mind, I had no problem believing, as I always had, that our drug wars are insane, and that perpetrator should be aggressively prosecuted.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/06/good-police/259197/