Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Rant

The local newspaper (which shall remain nameless) in our illustrious city (which shall also remain nameless) recently published an article quoting the Police Commissioner regarding a new way to regard and codify victims of crime.

Almost Orwellian in concept, said Commissioner is now categorizing crime victims as "authentic victims" and "inauthentic victims". When a crime victim is truly "authentic" in the Commissioner's eyes, said victim allegedly did nothing to "bring about or cause" the crime perpetrated against them, thus being seen as a true victim. "Inauthentic" victims are those who make lifestyle choices which put them at risk of, or more prone to, being the target of violence.

At face value, some white middle-class readers/citizens might automatically agree with such a codification. After all, if a gang member or prostitute is killed by gun violence, they essentially asked for it since they made life choices which put them in a position to be on the receiving end of those bullets. Whereas, if a white, middle-class person is downtown and is car-jacked and knifed, said individual is an "authentic" victim since they live a clean life and did not consciously place themselves in harm's way.

So, what's wrong with this picture? There are so many things wrong that I don't know where to begin.

First of all, forming judgements against victims of violent crime essentially gives the police the ability to respond differently to reports of crime based upon the neighborhood where the activity is reported. Racist police would undoubtedly be slow to respond to calls regarding low-income areas since anyone in that neighborhood automatically carries an "inauthentic victim" ID card based solely on their address.

Secondly, just because a person is white and middle-class and lives in a nice part of town does not preclude the possibility that that individual drives to the bus station every Friday night to score a bag of cocaine. Just because that individual has managed to avoid being caught in his illicit activity would not immediately confer upon that person "authentic" victim status, would it? Or do we assume under this program that white middle-class suburban folk never do drugs?

Third, when it comes to crime, an understanding of innocence until guilt is proven is a hallmark of our judicial system. If the police are allowed to pre-judge not only criminals but also their victims based upon perceptions of lifestyle, we may as well abdicate all judicial powers to the police and codify their judgements into law.

This is clearly a blatant attempt to manipulate crime statistics to better serve the interests of the city. When promoting the city as a haven for new business, the local government could very well publish only "authentic" crime rates, artificially decreasing the reported number of violent crimes in order to attract economic growth and investment.

All of us at the health center see this as a racist and classist manipulation of truth by the police of our troubled city, and it was decided today that we would publish a powerful letter to the editor to decry such a reprehensible policy. It seems that the proclivity to cynically spin numbers and statistics in order to benefit the rich and degrade the poor has trickled down from the Bush Administration to the cities and towns of the land. We citizens must stand up to such outrageous behavior and shout from the rooftops that we will not tolerate policies which undermine democracy, fairness, and equal protection under the law while simultaneously propagating racism and its ugly cousin classism. Such actions as these are really just rallying cries for the sane and justice-minded to take back aspects of our society which have been lost to the machinations of the cynical few.

And that is my rant for the day.
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