Mark Brantley, leader of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) and Federal Representative for constituency number 9, made a very impressive guest appearance last week on CMC’s NewsMakers series. He adroitly fielded questions on a variety of hot-button political topics of varying complexity, never seeming to break a sweat. However, some of his policy-related statements merit serious scrutiny. During the interview, Brantley voiced his approval — if not outright admiration — for the draconian law enforcement measures adopted in New York City By former mayor Rudy Giuliani. Further, he expressed interest in electronic surveillance tools, such as London’s ubiquitous CCTV cameras. It was Giuliani who popularized phrases like “zero tolerance” and the “broken windows” theory. Zero tolerance imposes automatic punishment for specific infractions and limits the amount of discretion that persons in positions of authority can exercise. The Broken Windows Theory says that cracking down on misdemeanor offenses, including littering, loud celebrations, and public drinking helps prevent major crimes By creating more of a ‘law and order’ civic environment. While there are legitimate questions regarding the degree to which Giuliani’s tactics were tied to the reduction in crime statistics generated in the Big Apple, there is not a single doubt that his tenure significantly polarized the city along racial and class lines. The toxic effects are still reverberating today. Every time a tragic story comes out of New York involving over-aggressive police officers and young black males who have either been killed or abused, it all goes right back to Rudy’s tenure. To many New Yorkers, Giuliani’s true legacy has been the establishment of a police-state atmosphere and the severe diminishment of civil liberties, replete with examples of over-the-top police abuses of power. He also established an undeniable climate of hatred and fear among minority populations in regard to law enforcement officials. Even some non-minorities came to feel more apprehensive than safe in the presence of the NYPD. The signature moment for Giuliani’s reign is very likely the deadly incident involving Amadou Diallo, an innocent, unarmed black man who died in a hail of police bullets in February 1999. Kittitians and Nevisians need to clearly understand what embracing such policies might engender. Is a significant ramping up of the police force and prison industry something that residents want? Both outcomes are logical side effects from rigorously following the “broken windows” and “zero tolerance” memes. Are severe diminishments in civil liberties and basic freedoms a desired end in the Federation as a putative solution to the problem of crime? Would this course of action not run a significant risk of alienating law-abiding citizens and sundering the implicit contract of trust between the police and the policed? Little evidence supports the claimed effectiveness of zero tolerance policies. A number of prominent scholars have cast doubt on the broken windows theory, instead concluding that the relationship between minor civic disorder and serious crime is modest, and even then is largely a minor factor when compared to more fundamental social issues. In the matter of stopping crime, the effectiveness of CCTV surveillance cameras — most famously (or infamously) applied in the United Kingdom — is highly debatable. The citizens of England have been called the ‘most surveilled’ population on the planet, with one estimate positing that the average UK resident is caught on CCTV cameras 300 times a day. The use of the cameras was questioned last year after it was revealed that for every 1,000 cameras in London, only one crime is solved. Not to mention that the cameras have been installed at an overall cost in the hundreds of millions, when measured in either dollars or British pounds. Aside from questions about its cost and effectiveness, could not such a system also be abused By unscrupulous officials for their own side purposes? No rational person would say that more effective policing of crime is not desirable, especially in the light of the irrefutable rise in murder and violent offenses in the Federation. However, an uninhibited, wholehearted embrace of ‘Giuliani-ism’ should be approached with extreme caution.
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