Illegal actions by police don't lower crime rate

I join the many Baltimore residents who are shocked and saddened by the heinous murder of Jacquelyn Smith (“‘This story struck my heart’: Oprah tweets about woman killed in Baltimore after offering money to panhandler,” Dec. 4). Her murder should spark a sense of urgency to address the underlying causes of homelessness and crime.

Discussing Ms. Smith’s death, Councilman Robert Stokes was careful to say that he wasn’t linking her death to the federal consent decree (“Woman killed after giving money to panhandler in Baltimore was engineer who had been out dancing with husband,” Dec. 4). That may be so, but by suggesting that the consent decree has made it harder for police to fight crime, he does imply a link between police oversight and increased crime. This is an unfortunate and misleading connection.

There is no compelling evidence that consent decrees cause higher crime rates, and in some instances, consent decrees can improve public safety by increasing police accountability and building trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. The bottom line is that we can ensure constitutional policing and improve public safety at the same time. To suggest otherwise is a failure of imagination and leadership.

Monique Dixon, Washington, D.C.

The writer is deputy director of policy and senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

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