For those who care about the problem of police violence and abuse, this may be the most important story of the decade. Maybe longer. Last week, Tom Woods interviewed Dale Brown, founder of the Detroit Threat Management Center. In case you don't have time to listen to the entire 39-minute interview, here are some highlights.
Essentially, the DTMC has done what libertarians like Murray Rothbard and David Friedman have long been saying could be done: They have turned the provision of public safety into a profitable business model, and they have done it in some of the worst neighborhoods in the country. The results have been incredible: According to Brown, crime has dropped dramatically in the areas where they work, and all without the loss of life to their staff or anyone else.
Brown moved to Detroit from Ann Arbor in the early 1990s. He was surprised to find that police in detroit behaved more as predators than protectors, that they were only interested in incarcerating as many people as possible, not in preventing crime.
"Law enforcement at that time was very fixated on one thing," he says, "imprisoning every single African American that they could."
Brown, who had been training volunteers, went into one of Detroit's worst neighborhoods. Dubbed "Crack Alley", it consisted of about ten apartment buildings and, according to Brown, about 100 aggressors, or 25% of the population. "There were hundreds of people who needed help," he says. "I couldn't get the police to help them."
So Brown went to the building owners and made them an offer: In exchange for one free apartment in a building, he would train and install one person to protect that building.
"Every day there was a home invasion," says Brown. "Every month there were murders. This is in one square block. From the day I started, there was only one more home invasion - I caught them - and there were no more murders from the day I started."
"So building owners suddenly went into the black for the first time in 20 years, because no-one moved from the buildings and everyone paid their rent. All of a sudden, as a result of people paying their rent... these corner stores, liquor stores, laundromats, all the places started to flourish because they had more customers."
Brown stresses that his methods minimize violence.
"When we first started, we were very gun intensive. This, I thought was the best approach. I was a soldier... I'm going to use superior violence of action to change human behavior... What I found out would work better was cameras."
"...my ultra-violent viewpoint was wrong... a gun was not the answer in those situations."
"Believe it or not, violent criminals hate video cameras because it takes away anonymity, and proves that they're the ones doing something... I slowly changed out, over many years, from guns to cameras. A broke camera was more effective at getting rid of drug-dealing gangs than actual guns."
The methods he uses are diametrically opposed to those used by the police:
"Think about everything you think about in terms of law enforcement and we do the exact opposite. So a police officer thinks you're a threat, so what they do is pull you over. If we think you're a threat, what we do is we pull up to you and talk to you. If a police officer thinks you're a threat, what they do is stay back away from you and pull out their gun. What we do is get so close you can't get pull out your gun. A police officer believes you're a threat so they begin to talk to you in an autocratic, aggressive fashion. What we do is build a psychological bridge to explain to you that there is no need, there's no option for violence, there's no opportunity, and there's nothing to gain. So you must leave now, and I'm letting you leave. My staff is letting you leave. You can simply go."
"Now this works in any situation where the human being is attempting to achieve something. Now when it's psychological, meaning the person is not thinking well, they're on drugs or they're in pain... we're able to read their body language ahead of time, and know that they're about to draw their weapon... ...we're able to take them into custody and take them down without injuring them and without letting them pull out their gun."
"Again, we're in Detroit. This is not theory. This is what we do. This is why none of my staff members are dead."
Brown dispels some common misconceptions about effective policing:
"There are about 2,000 law enforcement officers in Detroit now," he says. "They call it 'woefully understaffed.' There were (about) 7,000 officers in the 60s and 70s, where there was also riots and a lot more violence perpetrated against civilians... More cops did not add more of a profitable outcome, more of a prosperous community, more of a safe community..."
"Arrest powers have nothing to do with safety," says Brown. "Any citizen can take someone into custody if they commit a violent act. That has nothing to do with arresting."
The difference, of course, is that unlike police officers, an ordinary citizen will be held accountable for their actions:
"(I've learned better ways of crime prevention) because I have to," says Brown. "I'm accountable. I have no qualified immunity. That means, if I put my hands on someone it has to be legal. There has to be a way for me to explain it as a civilian. As a result, we've had no court date in 20 years. No lawsuits... in 20 years."
Brown says his methods are "a completely new paradigm in public safety - and it works, and I can prove it."
"Look at crimemapping.com," he says, "you will see an extremely low amount of crime anywhere that we work."
"Wealthy people get wealthier when there is less death, carnage, lawsuits, injuries and incarcerations on their property... they like my peaceful approach because it means more prosperity for them. But my focal point was community and family safety."
"We are not a non-profit. We are a for-profit corporation that is altruistic," he says. "We help people who do not have money for free, and that's a volunteer effort, by myself and my bodyguards. And that's why I make sure I don't have mercenaries."
"Prosperity driven by the prevention of violence in non-violent ways..."
"What does that mean? When a nurse came home with her child, when an elderly person got off the bus, that meant they didn't feel terror."
"...it's sustainable because it's profitable."
Another reason for the DTMC's success:
"We don't get involved in drugs and other issues that are non-violent. We focus on just violence."
"I create prosperous outcomes over and over again, without lawsuits, without injuries, without death, no killing unarmed people," says Brown. "These deaths are avoidable. These deaths that you're hearing about... they ARE avoidable."
You can listen to the entire interview here.