Criminal Justice Doesn’t Have to Wait 32,000 Years

In the Boston Globe of Feb. 21, 2012 I read a story about a Russian scientist growing a little arctic flower, the narrow-leafed campion, from a chunk of its fruit that is 32,000 years old.

Sometimes, powerful new ideas seem to take that long to sprout in the policing and criminal justice fields (pun intended).  Also this week I saw a story on PBS about the near-eradication of polio in India, against mighty odds.

India used to be the epicenter of polio, reports PBS. In 1985, there were an estimated 150,000 cases in India and as recently as 2009 there were 741, more than any other country in the world.

But its last case was in January 2011 – a remarkable achievement. But world health officials cannot remove India from the list of polio endemic countries until the result of lab tests confirm that it is no longer to be found in sewage.

This marvelous outcome once again had me wondering. Why, when we have proven strategies such as the “Don’t Shoot” model (the second generation of CeaseFire) at our fingertips,  can’t we seem to incorporate this  new paradigm of police and criminal justice anti-violence practice?  Why don’t these ideas flourish?   We have the best-trained army of  violence prevention outreach workers in the world: our patrol and investigative personnel. But the old models still restrain and constrain them in their ability to deter and prevent the spread of the epidemic.  The only thing conventional strategies and  organizational paradigms prevent is effectiveness.

To reduce polio cases to just about zero, the Indian campaigners oriented their  deployment of prevention resources to the contours and dynamics of the problem.  Indian families are highly mobile, with millions riding mass transportation every day.  So the pubic health people created a system that puts  immunization techs who administer the two-drop vaccine where the target pre-school children are: with their families at bus stations, at train stations and on the buses and trans themselves.

Also, they adopted an operating principle that, “every polio case is an emergency.” Not just “emergency” in the sense of something to be responded to quickly.  But a community disaster to be met and contained with all stakeholders on deck. Despite a caste system, desperate poverty and other challenges that could make the faint of heart give up, they just went ahead and achieved the improbable.

Would that, for all our genuine seriousness about firearm violence and death, we treated each violent death as a citywide tragedy deserving a full-hearted citywide mobilization.


About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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One Response to Criminal Justice Doesn’t Have to Wait 32,000 Years

  1. “Despite a caste system, desperate poverty and other challenges that could make the faint of heart give up, they just went ahead and achieved the improbable.” Completely inspiring to know what those in India have accomplished by prioritizing polio, against great odds. True, what would happen if enough people made it a possibility to target each violent death ” a community disaster”? And what would happen if, instead of being diametrically opposed to each other based on dogma and opinion of ‘gun rights’ (what a term) instead we had an ongoing interchange about each violent death being a community disaster, and therefore, it not being about rights or opinions about guns, but rather- what can we all do to prevent one more violent death.

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