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At this point it is well to guard ourselves against mistake. The deep interest of the state at large in an honest and efficient
police force does not point unerringly to the neCity Interest
cessity of complete central control. The city is in Law
not a detached portion of the state with interests Enforcement
wholly at variance with all other portions. Even in those matters which concern the state as a whole the city is usually more interested in a thorough-going enforcement of the law than places more remote. In every city the major portion of the work of the police consists in the enforcement of general laws for the prevention of crime and the protection of life and property. The failure of the police to perform those duties efficiently and impartially is of far more importance to the people of the city than to anyone else. With all that has been said derogatory to our American cities it could hardly be established that any one of them has ever been so depraved that a majority of its people have really desired that theft, arson and murder be committed with impunity. With regard to such offenses the city is in the same position as any other community. It has an interest, deeper than the common interest of the people at large, in a thoroughgoing enforcement of the law.
If at times the fundamental rights of life and property have not been adequately protected in the cities it must be accounted
for upon other grounds than that such matters Reasons for Non- are of less importance to the people of the city Enforcement of
than to the state as a whole. The reason is not Law in Cities
so simple as to be traced to any one source. It may be found in part in mere inattention to political conditions or apathy on the part of the city electorate, partly in the difficulties of law enforcement amid the heterogeneous population of many American cities, sometimes in a lack of power in the city government or in unwarranted outside interference and usually, to a certain extent, in the existence of a complicated system of government which dissipates the attention of the voter and makes it impossible to fix responsibility. Some of these factors should be examined before an attempt is made to lay down any general principles regarding the relation of the state government to the local police.
Certain careful observers of the effects of urban life believe that one of its results is to decrease the capacity of the people
for self-government. They point out that it enUrban Life and courages habits of dependence—a tendency to Political
shift the burden or to confront it apathetically Capacity
-in other words that urban life, at least in some measure, deprives the people of that self-reliance and keen interest in political affairs that are so essential to vigorous and efficient popular government. There are some who seem inclined to regard this tendency as strong and ineradicable. Just in proportion as that view is accepted there is a disposition to consider the cause of self-government for cities as more or less hopeless, to restrict their powers of government and to deprive them of any function which may not have been exercised with a fair degree of success.
In working out a proper relation between the state and the city, care should be taken to avoid the extreme conclusion just stated. Many of the defects of political character found in our city electorates and attributed to this inherent contagion are clearly due, in considerable measure, to more superficial causes. Moreover the strength of the harmful influence of urban life on the capacity for self-government has been greatly overestimated. Even such as it is, if it cannot wholly be eradicated, it is not beyond the reach of the ameliorating influence of remedial measures. However, granting that it is a strong and permanent force undermining the capacity of municipal electorates, it would not be the part of wisdom to yield to such an insidious sleeping sickness by withdrawing from the control of the cities those things which they are disinclined to undertake. We should need rather to add a new tenet to the creed of municipal reform. Hitherto we have preached the doctrine of the right of municipal home rule. It should be declared in addition that if the cities will not undertake self-government as a right it must be forced upon them as a duty; that if there is apathy the people must be stung into activity by making them feel the ill effects of carelessness and inaction. Any other policy would be shortsighted in the extreme for what is here involved is not the welfare of the city alone but the success of democratic government as a whole.
It has already been indicated that apathy or indifference toward encroachments on such fundamental rights as those of life and pro
perty may be the result, in part at least, of variComplex
ous causes. It is well known, for example, that Governments Cause Apathy
no body of people can be kept constantly keyed to
a high pitch of civic enthusiasm. Even with a system of government organized with an eye single to easy and effective popular control the interest of the voter would at times relax. In America we have inherited a governmental organization that, under present conditions, encourages frequent attacks of lassitude. By unnecessarily complicated machinery we have made it impossible for the great mass of honest, well-meaning voters to effect good results without the exercise of a supreme effort. Now supreme effort in politics, as well as in physical exertion, demands an after season of recuperation and it is during our periods of political recuperation, or apathy, that much of the ground gained is retaken by the enemy and the necessity for another “supreme effort” is created. Simplification of our governmental machinery so that the voter could express a clear choice between men and measures without the sacrifice of an unreasonable amount of time and effort would doubtless cause our inefficiency to be less marked and render the seasons of apathy less deep and frequent.
Finally the occasional indifference and alleged incapacity of the city voter is in part due to the relative value which has been given to city government in the public mind. Men seek those things which their fellows think worth while. Economic value does not per se make a thing supremely desirable though the strength and comfort arising from the possession of wealth will always attract large numbers to the pursuit of it. In a wellbalanced society other objects will divide the allegiance of the
people with the acquisition of wealth. It so Pursuit of
happens that, in the period of our history from Wealth and City which we are now happily emerging, business Government
success stood almost alone in the public estimation as being worth while. In the face of this blighting valuation social service, scholarship and good government were greatly discounted. The type of mind and ability that could achieve economic success was not only taken as the standard but there was a galling assumption that all other types were inferior. Efficient city government, while not necessarily regarded as undesirable, occupied among the things to be achieved a position of thirdrate importance. Indeed during the darkest days of the period we were dangerously near taking the position that decent government and economic progress might be antagonistic conceptions and that if they came in conflict decent government must give way.
There are still lingering shadows of this damning principle of popular judgment though we have made rapid gains in the direction of a more healthful view. Just in proportion as this old misconception remains we have apathy or improper action in the treatment of municipal questions. Progress in American cities is in no small measure due to the acceptance of a juster standard of values. Clean, honest and efficient city government is gradually being accepted as an achievement second to none. There are glimmerings of evidence that a career in the service of the city is coming to be regarded as something worthy of public acclaim. Once that conception becomes firmly established in the popular mind there will be no dearth of men of character and ability willing, even eager, to make the pecuniary sacrifice involved in entering the service of the city. At the same time the municipal voter will tend to lose his apathy and become more effective, because he will feel that in the exercise of the suffrage he is performing a function of first-rate importance.
The bearing of the foregoing discussion upon the problem of the control of police scarcely needs be pointed out. Briefly stated it is this: Before we become disheartened at the political incapacity or perversity of city populations and withdraw from their control important functions of government we should assure ourselves of certain things. It should be clear that the defect is inherent, that it renders the performance of the duty in question impossible without great danger to the body politic, that it is largely beyond the reach of remedial measures and that the new arrangement is not capable of equally great evils. It is not sufficient that the assumption of a former municipal function by the state will result in more efficient service. In a democracy, consideration must always be given to the effect of an expedient of government upon the people themselves. The creation of an efficient electorate is far more important than the mere efficient performance of a governmental function. For this reason it may be unsound to urge that a power of government should be taken from the city because it has been improperly used or that the state could do the work better. The same sort of reasoning would lead us to forbid the child to use a pen because, forsooth, he cannot at once write as well as his instructor and sometimes smears himself and the copy with ink. With this note of warning we may turn to a solution of the problem of the control of police.
Without doubt the most serious weakness in our system of government at the present time is in the matter of law enforce
ment. Our state governments with wide powers Lack of Power
of legislation are without any adequate means of to Enforce Law enforcing the will of the people thus expressed. We find ourselves in this unfortunate plight largely because our machinery of government has not been adjusted to fit changed conditions. The system of local autonomy in the administration of state laws was well adapted to the simple, homogeneous, uncongested agricultural population to which our institutions were first applied. The problem of administering the general laws for the protection of life and property was not difficult and such central control over local officers as was needed could be exercised through the slow and cumbrous process of the courts. The increase in population, the development of varied industries, the introduction of large groups of foreigners, and particularly the growth of cities has rendered this old system absolutely inapplicable in most of our states. The old prob
lems have been intensified, new ones have arisen Old System
and, particularly, the opposition to certain classes Outgrown
of law, considered desirable by the state as a whole, is localized in the cities. Where once uniformity of interest insured a reasonably uniform enforcement of the law by unsupervised local authorities there is now the widest diversity. The resulting condition is very undesirable and may breed a train of consequences that will prove calamitous.