Michael Barone Connects Imaginary Dots From 1970s Detroit to 2013 NYC

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Political pundit Michael Barone, who sees stop-and-frisk policing as a swell idea, presumably never has been profiled as suspicious for Walking While Conservative.

That may be partly why he defends a 19-year-old New York City policy that Barone says is "more accurately called stop, question and frisk."

In a syndicated commentary published Friday by The Detroit News, the American Enterprise Institute fellow draws an imaginary connection across 40 years and 600 miles to cite Detroit as a worst-case example of what happens when the police tactic is dropped. 

An extreme case of what happens when a city ends stop-and-frisk is Detroit. Coleman Young, the city’s first black mayor, did so immediately after winning the first of five elections in 1973.

In short order Detroit became America’s murder capital. Its population fell from 1.5 million to 1 million between 1970 and 1990. Crime has abated somewhat since the Young years, but the city’s population fell to 713,000 in 2010 — just over half that when Young took office.

People with jobs and families — first whites, then blacks — fled to the suburbs or farther afield. Those left were mostly poor, underemployed, in too many cases criminal — and not taxpayers. As a result, the city government went bankrupt last month.

That cause-effect claim is a stretch so extreme that Barone must strain a muscle as well as credulity.


"An extreme case of what happens when a city ends stop-and-frisk is Detroit," Michael Barone writes in The Detroit News.

He jumps from Young's election to "America's murder capital" to white flight to a head-spinning conclusion: "As a result, the city government went bankrupt last month."

Talk about a leap that defies facts, logic and gravity: "An extreme case of what happens when a city ends stop-and-frisk is Detroit" going bankrupt.

Something is extreme in that sentence all right -- an extreme dismissal of 1967 rioting, freeway construction, suburban home-building, predatory real estate agents (aka block-busters) and declining schools as key reasons why "people with jobs and families — first whites, then blacks — fled to the suburbs or farther."

Here's a reality check from another newspaper commentary, written by former CBS correspondent Marilyn Salenger for The Washington Post last month:

While the suburbs began to draw people out of our cities in the 1950s, Detroit’s neighborhoods and their demographics changed drastically and quickly after the 1967 riots.

Sure, toss urban safety concerns into Barone's mix of population loss factors. But erase that line to bankruptcy straight from disbanding aggressive tactics by Detroit's officers in STRESS units (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets). 

Blaming bankruptcy on that action is as unjust as singling out black and Hispanic pedestrians disproportionately for pat-downs.

Read more:  The Detroit News
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