On a chilly evening in early May, Mitchell Thomas, a Buffalo, New York, police lieutenant, pulled his patrol car away from an East Side district station to lead a three-vehicle caravan on an unconventional policing mission.

Thomas and his team of four Buffalo cops and an FBI agent were making home visits, a form of intervention that Buffalo police had recently begun relying on more heavily to head off imminent violence. These meetings alert likely victims or shooters that they are at risk of death or arrest unless they choose a different path. If successful, the police get invited back with social workers offering an array of services—GED classes, job training, counseling, rehab—in a bid to prevent recurring cycles of violence.

One stop had been added at the last minute. Earlier that day, a drive-by shooter had fired multiple rounds at a 21-year-old from a rival gang, who scrambled unhurt into his aunt’s house. Police investigating the incident had come and gone. As Thomas approached the encounter with the would-be victim, Darnell Clark, he brimmed with optimism. “This guy could be dead right now,” he said. “Maybe after this shooting, he’s like, ‘Man, I need to change my life.’”

Twenty minutes later, Thomas returned to his patrol car proclaiming the meeting a qualified success. He told me later that Clark had been nonchalant at first but eventually opened up a bit, and that Clark’s mother, who’d also been there, had listened to Thomas’s spiel about connecting the family to social services that might keep her son out of danger or criminal trouble, and then gave Thomas her name and number to be contacted again. (Clark’s name has been changed at the police department’s request, for his and his family’s protection.) That, Thomas concluded, constituted progress. “They get to see the police in a …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics


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