Monday, March 30, 2009

Neighborhood Safety - The Guardians and the Vanguard

GUEST BLOG Gerry Cleveland is an attorney and also an expert in youth violence prevention. He is a former police officer and an educator with experience in troubled high schools. Gerry wrote this response to my February blog "Preventing Crime in LA". I invite you to respond to Gerry's last question...

The police focus in community development, in my view, is both dangerous and ill conceived.

The guardians are any society exist (from Aristotle's onward) for the sole purpose of enforcing an established status quo. These guardians (modern day police) should never be asked into the vanguard and leadership of any societal movement. Unless we expect renaissance abilities from them and we are prepared to equip our police officers with political and social philosophy training, then they should always take rear guard, supportive actions.

Similarly, those most avaricious of creatures, the corporations, should also never be expected to take on a societal development or redevelopment role. By doing so, we ask the lion to watch the lamb.

The current problem with community development is that we are asking the wrong people to do the right job.

What ever McDonnell [LAPD Deputy Chief] or Bratton [LAPD Chief] do is, in my view, irrelevant until we have the right forum, with the appropriate thinkers to lead them. What we need and what we currently lack in North America is what is known as the 'guiding mind' for what Saville wants: fundamental social reform.

The leadership we want won't, sadly, be coming from our famous Chicago politician. As hopeful and inspiring as Barack Obama is, he remains a creature not of reform but rather of politics and that failed infrastructure.

Yes, he has a background in community development, but his history teaches us, (at the Harvard review and in the Senate as two examples) that he will be more of a guardian than a reformer.

So, the question is this: who will lead this reform that we all know we need? Will it be someone like Muhammad Yunus who provides loans for Indian villagers - especially women - to engage in local commerce. I suspect so.

Sadly, I think we require great turmoil to effect great change. Until we are collectively forced to look beyond current, ineffective ways of living together, nothing will change. Looking to guardians and the maintainers of the status quo - like police and governments - to lead that change seems hopeful, but naive.

Perhaps this so-called global crisis will be the spark that will destroy a mean spirited, divisive economic system. Let's hope so.

Perhaps what we suffer now will lead us to better days ahead. Any ideas on what next Greg?