THE OPEN MIND
Host: Richard D. Heffner
Guests: Hugh Masini, Patrick Murphy, Phillip Tannian
Title: “Law and Order – a Public View”
I’m Richard Heffner, your host on THE OPEN MIND. Some time ago, we discussed criminal justice in America, and the appearance on that program of a professional police officer drew from our viewers the request that here on The Open Mind we look again to the top cops of this country for their views on law and order, to get from them, if there is such a thing, a police view of crime in America, its prevalence, its punishments, its prevention. And so today on The Open Mind our guests are, once again, Patrick Murphy, former Police Commissioner of the City of New York, now President of the Police Foundation; also Hugh J. Masini, Chief of Police of Hartford, Connecticut; and Phillip G. Tannian, Chief of Police of Detroit, Michigan.
Gentlemen we have an hour now to talk about your view, the police view, of law and order. And I suppose the first question that I need to put to you as a kind of surrogate of the public is whether you feel that the police have become effective or more effective in the past decade, whether they’ve developed techniques that you can feel yourselves to be proud of, sufficiently proud of, and if so, how can we explain the increasing crime rate in this country, how can we see the two things together, increasing crime and police effectiveness? Gentlemen? Go ahead, Mr. Tannian.
Tannian: Thank you. I think that it’s important to understand that the crime rate is not attributable to the police alone, and they should not be held accountable for the fact that the crime rate moves up or down. They’re part of, and only part of, an entire criminal justice process that includes the public, the school system, the police, the courts, prosecutors, probation departments, correction departments and so forth. And to the extent that any of those break down or fail to function in the best interest of the citizens in terms of their public safety, then crime either goes up or down, depending on whether they improve their resource or their capabilities or whether their capabilities went down.
Heffner:Does that mean that as far as you’re concerned the failures have been on the part of these other constituent parts of the criminal justice system, not the police?
Tannian: No. I would have to say that I think that all of the elements of the criminal justice process have their problems. I would not want the viewers to thin that the police are perfect and that we walk on water. We clearly have our problems. There’s no question about that. But so do the other elements of the criminal justice process. One of the difficulties though in trying to correct it, at least as far as I can see, is the fact that, for example, in Detroit, if something happens, if the police do something wrong, everybody knows who’s accountable. It’s me. There is one head of the Detroit Police Department. Whereas if it’s in the court area, that’s just kind of an anonymous gang. And when you talk to one of them, he’s always not the one who’s doing it; it’s always somebody else. And so you can’t ever grab the person or individuals that seem to be responsible for the fact that they don’t manage their resources very well.
Heffner:Well, what are the things that you find in the court system that lead to the ineffectiveness of our efforts to minimize crime, maximize order?
Tannian: Well, one of the recently replaced presiding judges of our criminal court in the City of Detroit. I was making these comments in Detroit recently about how we all need to address the crime problem and the problem of safety in the home and on the streets. And the next day he came out with a public pronouncement saying it was not any concern of the judges whether crime went up or down. Well, it seems to me that unless all of us in that criminal justice process can decide on what our end objective is, we got a canoe with four or five oars in the water and we’re all rowing in different directions. And it’s no wonder that the public sits there and looks at us and says, “Hey, where the hell are all you guys going? I don’t understand. Why don’t you all row in the same direction?”
Heffner:Well, let me ask Commissioner Murphy and Chief Masini whether they feel the same way, whether there’s this problem that they face too. Chief Masini?
Masini: Well, let me take jerry’s answer just a little bit further. I think that the police have made some progress in the past ten or 15 years. And yet the effect of that cannot be felt if you look to measure it in terms of reduced crime. And I think the reality of life is that you could have the most effective police department in this world and would impact about that much on the incidence of crime. And let’s take it a step further. You could have the most effective criminal justice system in the world, and here too, I think with all the failings in the court and prosecutions and amongst the police, we have our successes and our failures, with all of that I think they’ve been making some progress, but you could have the most effective criminal justice system in the world and it would impact maybe about that much on the incidence of crime, because crime is going to continue to rise until we have resolved the problems or the factors that cause crime. You know, the poor housing, the lack of education, discrimination, the lack of opportunity for people to get work, and I can go on and on. That’s why crimes occur.
Heffner:So that that’s where you’d put your emphasis rather than upon the failure of one of the other constituent parts of the criminal justice system?
Masini: Well, I think we need to put our emphasis on both. But we have to understand that nothing really is going to happen until there are massive efforts made to deal with those facts which, if they don’t generate they at least allow a climate to exist in which crime flourishes.
Heffner:Well, some weeks ago or months ago when we dealt with the question of criminal justice in America, and Commissioner Murphy was a guest, he felt very much the same way and expressed that. And yet, Commissioner Murphy, I’d say to you that we did receive from viewers, and viewers around the country too, letters and calls that related to the question of, okay, it may well be that we’ve got finally to address ourselves to the matter of injustice in our society that perhaps leads to crime, but what about today, what about tonight, what about law and order and crime in the streets today? And I wonder if you’d…
Murphy: I think that’s a fair question. And the people have every right to say, “All well and good. Let’s solve these social and economic problems.” But I think we’d better get more serious about solving them sooner rather than later. But the citizen does have the right to say, “What about my safety today, tonight, in my home, on the streets of my city?” and I make two points. We’re a divided society. So often police officials from Western Europe, for example, say, “Why are your crime rates so much higher?” Well, one point of view is that those societies are much more homogenous than ours, and I think that’s a fact. We’re still a divided nation, and it’s no secret, we might as well state the fact, much of our crime problem is related to our minority populations. I believe, for the reasons that Chief Masini has identified: lack of job opportunity, very high unemployment rates, and for a variety of other reasons. But it’s also a fact, as Chief Tannian pointed out, that this whole system of crime control, of the law enforcement and criminal justice process does not work very well and people are not pulling together. And I think the fault for that can be placed – and again it will sound as if we’re passing the buck from the police department – it’s at the state level of government. We have an unbelievably fragmented system of crime control in the United States. More than 25,000 police departments. Fragmented prosecution systems, court systems, correction systems. And we don’t want the federal government to step in to take over. We don’t want a national police force. But the states have to begin to set standards and to coordinate this whole process so that a chief judge will be concerned about the crime problem. In my opinion, when he says my only responsibility, if I’m understanding it correctly, is to see that justice is done in my court, and it’s inappropriate for a judge to look far beyond that, I think that’s unrealistic. And the state is the level of government that has to get into this picture, and so far the states are not in the picture very much at all.
Heffner:Well, you talk about Europeans who come here and raise questions about our own crime rate. Crime rates lower in other parts of the world?
Murphy: Well, there are many other countries, especially the western European democracies that have much lower crime rates than we have. And I think we have every right to say this is the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world. We can’t offer that excuse, where we’re a poor nation. How come other countries that don’t have all of the power and all of the wealth that we have can have lower crime rates? I think that’s worth looking at. And I think that will help us to identify some of these problems.
Heffner:but when you say that, I am reminded then to turn to chief Tannian again and ask him whether he feels that lower crime rates elsewhere are a reflection of a judicial system that functions differently from our own. I mean, is there surer punishment for crime elsewhere in the world? Would that be a factor in diminishing our crime rate, if there were surer punishments? And do you think we can extrapolate that from the western European experience in such a way as to say, “Look, if the judiciary would only make the law function as it should once we’ve apprehended proven criminals, then our crime rate would go down.” Do you think it would be a fair thing to say that that’s the case elsewhere?
Tannian: I’ve never seen any empiric study that would support that or that would refute that. So all I can give you are some opinions and maybe some random facts. For example, in England, it’s unheard of that a criminal languishes before trial for as long as six months. And yet in Detroit we’ve got a criminal conspiracy case that involves, I don’t know how many police officers, about a dozen of them, and it involves four or five attorneys and about 20 civilians. We haven’t even gone to the first stage of the criminal justice process, which is the exam, where you prove probable cause. We haven’t even done that yet. And it has been almost two years since that prosecution started.
Heffner:Why? Why haven’t you gotten to that point?
Tannian: Well, in my judgment the attorneys that are charged continue to practice law. So they have everything to gain by delay, and nothing to lose. The longer they delay it, the worse the prosecution case gets, because a criminal prosecution case does not get better with age like wine does. As a matter of fact, it just gets rotten with age. And so consequently they recognize that. In addition to that, they know that if they’re convicted then their very livelihood is in jeopardy, their ability to practice law. And so consequently, delay is in their best interest. So what they have done is they file a motion with the court, it gets turned down, so they they go all through the appeal process. It goes up to the Supreme Court, and they turn it down. So then they come back into the trial court and they file another motion. And then that goes all the way up. And of course, these kinds of tactics are permitted. It just isn’t allowed in England. You know, if you’ve got objections, you raise them all, you raise them at the beginning, you’re heard, and three months everything’s done, including all of the appeals.
Heffner:Then you’re concerned about the procedures in this country, the judicial procedures. You’re not talking now about a particular judge who permits something or doesn’t permit something. You’re talking about a whole process, if I understand you correctly.
Tannian: That’s right. That’s correct.
Heffner:And you think that process ought to be turned upside down?
Tannian: I’m not so sure that it needs to be turned upside down. I think that we need to recognize that – and let me say to you and to the viewers. I am a lawyer, so I feel reasonably comfortable with being able to say this – but law school, in my judgment, is nothing more than a good trade school. It does not teach somebody to manage a large, multimillion dollar organization with two or three thousand employees. And yet who do we have running our criminal justice process? The attorneys. And generally speaking, at least on my experience, they are very poor administrators.
Heffner:Well, I don’t want to belabor this, but my understanding is you’re not really now talking about administration; you’re talking about policies. You’re talking about certain procedures that we’re guaranteed in our criminal justice system. You say they’re being abused. But what’s the solution to that, to change the ability of a lawyer, of an attorney to go from one appeal to the other, to change the, what has become due process in our country?
Masini: No, if you’ve got five appealable issues, then do them all right at the outset instead of taking them one at a time. I think there is an issue of how the courts are administered, that it’s not just the simple issue of the accused having all of his rights. And it is a system on the part of judges and prosecutors and the criminal lawyers and the smart criminals know how to beat the system. And I assume all of us are concerned about the overcrowding in our courts, in our prosecutors’ offices, with the results that the defense counsel can manipulate the system to the advantage of his own client. Judge shopping, and we don’t know what’s going on. Now, police administrators aren’t the best administrators in the world either. And there’s a terrible lack of good information across the system. But neither are elected district attorneys and chief judges the best administrators in the world. And as that problem has been looked at in a few cities in the country, a number of horror stories have been revealed about how the criminal slips through the cracks, even the violent criminal. Prosecutors don’t even know in some of the big cities that someone coming up on a case may have three or four other charges pending against him. And it is very important, I think, and I don’t think it threatens the civil liberties that we’re so concerned about and individual rights, to have better management in our prosecutor’s offices and courts.
Tannian: It was interesting to me, it’s about a year ago now, one of the judges was asked about the management of the court system in the City of Detroit. And he was asked, “What do you think would improve the ability of the Detroit court to handle its backlog?” And he said very simply, “Just install a time clock for the judges”. That was his answer. Which tells you, I think, some very interesting things.
Heffner:You’ve focused on this, so I gather you do feel rather strongly that, as you started by saying, that an important element in the increasing crime rate is not the effectiveness of the police but the effectiveness of the police to function in a system in which a judicial system isn’t working as effectively as it might.
Tannian: We’ve got to work as a team. And we’re not working as a team. There’s just no question about that. In southeastern Michigan, only one out of every 100 crimes will ever see anyone serve as much as one day in jail.
Heffner:Because of government administration? Or for other reasons?
Tannian: I think it’s a number of reasons. That being one of them. I think that, at least I have the impression, and again I know of no empiric study, but I have the impression in watching the judges they tend to empathize or understand the defendant in front of them, and they never see the victim.
Heffner:Now you say the defendant. Do you really mean that man standing at the bar of justice? Or do you mean a system of defense, a concern for the defense of an individual or of individuals generally? Do you really mean sympathy for that man who has been accused?
Tannian: Uh hm. Yes, I do.
Heffner:Why? Where would it come from?
Tannian: The attorney, defense counsel pleads his case, pleads for leniency, and is frankly frequently very persuasive. It’s also interesting to look at when a judge runs for election, who is it that’s buying the tickets to his fundraiser in order to pay for his campaign expenses? And you see the same attorneys that practice in his court, which rises…
Heffner:Aren’t you talking about corruption then?
Tannian: I’m not sure that we’re talking about corruption in the classical sense, because what that means is that some quid pro quo. You’re the judge and I say, “Here’s $500. Give my defendant probation nor a suspended sentence”. I don’t think that takes place. But I think what we have is a friendly relation.].I better correct that. In some instances it does, but I think it’s rare. But what we have is a friendly relationship, kind of a cooperative relationship. And the attorney who has helped him get elected is now in front of him pleading a case, and so there’s a tendency to understand the arguments that are being put by defense counsel, and so consequently the defendant will walk out the door.
Heffner:You seem to feel then that there are more bleeding heart judges than there are hanging judges. Because of this interconnection among members of the legal profession, your profession.
Tannian: I’ll let you do the categorizing.
Tannian: I have found all that does is start a very violent argument, and it really does not move the discussion forward when I’m talking to the judges if I start off the conversation by saying, “all right, Mr. bleeding Heart Judge, now what are we going to do about the problem?” everything is downhill from there. So, you know, I just don’t like to get info that bag at all.
Heffner:All right. Since there may be a judge or two watching. I’ll turn to Chief Masini and ask him his opinion about this matter.
Masini: Well, I wonder if we are looking for a very simple answer to a very complicated problem. I think we’re touching upon certainly one of the things that needs to be done to deal with the problem, and that is better management. Better management, not just in the police system. We’ve recognized our failures in management, and I’m sure as we go along this afternoon we’ll talk more about that. But just as there has been poor opportunity for development of management in the police work, we don’t have the kind of management we need in the courts, in the prosecutor’s office, in corrections. There’s also the shortage of resources. I think that as a police adminster I’m certainly aware of the fact that we don’t have all of the resources we need. But I would have to agree that probably the courts and the prosecutors and corrections have been somewhat shortchanged even more than the police in that regard. So I think it’s a combination of not having the kind of imaginative, creative, strong management in the other agencies of the criminal justice system that are required, as well as not having all of the resources that are required. You can’t do it with mirrors. You need to do it with qualified people, and with those people having the resources that they need to do.
Heffner:When you talk about resources, are you talking about larger police departments in terms of the police end of this triangle?
Masini: Well, I was trying to get away from talking about just the police end of it.
Masini: I think I’m talking about, you know, more courts and more judges and more clerks and better scheduling of the cases so that they can be moved quickly and smoothly through the criminal justice system, and with the court recognizing when that it’s made a determination that someone is guilty, there’s a place to send him where he’s likely to be treated rather than just incarcerated. And again I want to repeat what I said earlier. Even with all of this, remember we’re only going to impact this much on the crime satiation. But if we’re going to impact at least that much we need to improve the total system. You know, I want to get away from picking on the courts and picking on the prosecutors. They have their failings, and they’ll be recognized, and we’ll help them recognized them. But as a police administrator, I have to ask myself, “Well, what am I going to do about it?” and I think that the role of the police – it doesn’t need to change – but it needs to be recognized for what it really is. And an important part of that role is the police professional generalist bringing about a kind of police community action, not just relations. And part of that is that police, the police reaching out and seeing to it, if it has to reach out and pull the court and help the court to deal with specifics, for example, maybe we have to be better able to go to court and say, “Here are the recidivists that keep going back out into the system. And these are the people we want brought to trial quickly and dealt with, you know, as quickly as possible”. And, you know, I’m not going to put the burden all on the courts. We have a responsibility to learn how to let the other elements of the of the criminal justice system work most effectively to conclude the work we started when we arrested people.
Heffner:You’re talking about information here. And I’ve always been impressed that commissioner Murphy puts his emphasis upon research, information, getting to the facts of criminal activities as well.
Murphy: I think that the viewer, the citizen, is not impressed very much to hear three police administrators saying, “Well, with better management, things could improve.” But to give you an idea of how critical it is, in New York City, if a police officer makes an arrest, it’s at least eight and a half hours of time wasted in the court process. Yet Oakland, California can accomplish that in an hour and a half. Now, this isn’t to point the finger at the people in the court system and prosecutors’ offices in New York, but it is simply to say that’s very valuable time. That police officer could be on the street for six of those hours, preventing crime hopefully, and how can we change that? Well, it’s management. And it does depend upon information. It’s hard to describe it, but most citizens, and maybe most attorneys, if they had an opportunity to see how the cases get lost in the system and how the criminal gets lost in the system and beats the system, they would be horrified and say, “Yes, we must develop the information systems that will help the police, the prosecutors, and the courts to know what’s happening so that of all the people who come in the arrest process we can put the finger on the repeater, especially the violent criminal repeater”. How about the rapist who commits a half dozen rapes before we finally get everybody to lock in on that case that must be focused on?
Heffner:Well, Chief Masini also just said, talked about the record of the recidivist. But I’m surprised. You mean that’ snot available now? When a man comes before a judge or for a trial that isn’t available immediately?
Tannian: Let me answer that and give you a very concrete example. I have been doing it – or the department. I shouldn’t say “I.” it makes it sound like I’m doing it personally – the department has been doing a great deal of research in Detroit for several months now. And we’re learning some very interesting things. We had people in the City of Detroit who were professional killers, who did it for money. For no other reason than for money. And we caught one of them and we had him on three multiple execution homicides. Three of them pending against him at one time. And one of our judges let him out. And we know that within hours of his getting out on the street he left a $20,000 contract out for one of the witnesses that I’m paying a small fortune to keep alive at a location that I will not disclose. Now, that doesn’t make any sense at all. We’ve also done extensive research and we find that the alarming majority of rape in the City of Detroit is committed by less than 50 men. Less than 50 men put the women in the city of Detroit in such fear. And what we found out is they do it over and over and over and over until we catch them. And then we bring them into court, bail is set, and they’re right back out on the street. When we catch one f those professional criminals, he ought not to be put out on bail. He ought to be kept in confinement, expedite his trial. I don’t care if you try him in two weeks after we arrest him. I really don’t care if you try him in three or four days after you arrest him, after we arrest him. From the standpoint of the police, generally speaking, what 98, 99 percent of the cases, we’re ready to try that case in court within hours of the arrest. And everything beyond that is merely for the convenience of the prosecutor’s office and defense counsel and the judges.
Heffner:Oh, now, wait a minute. You say, “For their convenience.” For the convenience of a total system…
Tannian: That’s correct.
Heffner:…to. And I…
Tannian: That’s correct. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give that impression.
Heffner:But now I’m a little puzzled. Chief Masini and Commissioner Murphy seem to be saying, if I understand you correctly, that we don’t now have the mechanism, the means by which the information concerns a man’s record can be made immediately available so that a judge can see that he’s dealing with someone who has at least been charged with similar crimes over a period of time. You seem to be saying that record is available, it’s made available to the judge, and the judge still sets bail even though the man is on bail perhaps for another crime. Am I correct in the difference of approach between you gentlemen?
Tannian: I don’t know. I did not hear Hugo and Pat say that. We have things like automated criminal histories, or we have always had the FBI’s criminal history file In Washington, and each state has also maintained its own criminal history file. So we’ve had that for years. What Pat’s talking about is when an individual has five pending prosecutions against him and he’s found not guilty on the first one, in many areas of the country he’s let loose, because the system doesn’t tell the judge that there are four others pending against him. Well, that’s a major problem. And it really is not that difficult to solve if you’ve got somebody who has a little management ability to address it.
Heffner:then the judge you’re talking about who lets the first, lets the man off on the first charge, does not know about the other four charges. Am I correct then?
Tannian: In many instances. In the example I gave you, he knew. He knew exactly. And he let him go anyway.
Heffner:You see, of course, that’s what puzzles the lay person. On the one hand, there seems to be a discussion about the limitations upon our information resources; and on the other hand we’re talking about attitudes on the part of members of the judiciary that are responsible for this matter. And I suppose both are true.
Tannian: Both problems exist. But I think we’ve lived through an era when the American people are led to believe only one part of that: the judges are bleeding hearts, for the most part, they’re too liberal, they’re soft on criminals. Of course there are some of those judges. But we all know some very had-nosed judges who, because the system doesn’t support them properly, have cases come before them that slip through the cracks as well, simply because there’s no corruption involved or it wasn’t any soft-hearted attitude, just that in these very heavily overloaded urban system the cases are not recorded in such a way that you always have all of that information before you. Of course over and over again I’ve had prosecutors tell me about a case that they were handling in court and they’re not realizing that there was another pending case because the record system is weak.
Heffner:what’s happening to your men? What’s happening to the men who report to you as they become aware of the degree to which for one reason or another, because of the attitude of the judge or because of lack of information on the man they’ve apprehended at great risk of their own lives has been let loose and perhaps, as you’ve indicated, chief Tannian, commits another crime? What is happening to the morale of the police in this country? Here we’re videotaping this program toward the very end of January in 1975, and already in New York City four policemen have been killed. What is happening? What’s the potential for getting good men and keeping them and keeping them doing their job in the face of this kind of activity?
Muphy: I don’t think there’s any question that policemen throughout the country, when they see evidence of all of our failures – and I’m not attributing it to any part of the criminal justice system – where a person who has committed a crime is back out on the street and has the opportunity to commit a crime again, there’s no question that it impacts upon them, it damages their morale. That’s a fact of life, and it’s one of the reasons why, only one of the reasons why it’s so important that we correct this. Unquestionably it hurts their morale.
Tannian: The level of frustration is just overwhelmingly high as far as I’m concerned. The police officers and the citizens are really frustrated. My guys will pick up an individual, a felon, take him downtown, he will be processed and will e back out in the neighborhood looking for the old man or old woman who signed the complaint against him to make sure that they don’t appear at any subsequent hearings before the police officers get through with the paperwork and can get back out on the street. Now, that needs to be recognized, that there are in fact people like that and that they are professional criminals. And I didn’t mention it earlier, but we’ve done studies on auto theft, in burglary, breaking and entering, homicide, armed robbery. And except for the homicide area, we’re convinced that the majority of the criminal activity that is reported to us – okay? – is being done by people who have made a conscious decision that crime is going to be a way of life. We have an overwhelming auto theft problem. And almost without exception, when we finally make an arrest, we find it’s a professional gang that’s stealing cars on order, stripping them of the non-identifiable parts, and then leaving the hulks with the serial numbers sitting on side streets somewhere.
Heffner:so you’re saying the feeling then is that crime does pay?
Tannian: There’s no question about that at the moments, in my mind.
Heffner:but you say “With the exception of murder”. Does that mean that you don’t find yourself in the ranks of those who look to the reinstitution of capital punishment?
Tannian: No, I don’t. I don’t think that capital punishment is the answer. If you look – and I haven’t looked at New York or any other city – but in Detroit, 70 percent of the homicides that are committed are between friends, relatives, and acquaintances. And I can give you very hard, specific examples. And then I have to ask myself, now, should we execute that mother? I’ll give you one example: A mother had an emotionally violent argument with her 17, little better than 17-year-old son. He ran out the kitchen door. She grabbed a pistol out of the kitchen door and started shooting at him out the back door. That 14-year-old who idolized his older brother stepped in between and she blew him away. Now, in the law in the State of Michigan, that’s first-degree murder.
Tannian: Life imprisonment. Now, if we had the death penalty, should we have executed that woman? And the answer that I come to it, it doesn’t make any sense to execute her.
Heffner:Well, without the figure that, you say 70 percent. I gather it’s true elsewhere that most homicides are committed within families or among friends, so called.
Tannian: That’s correct.
Heffner:Without that, however, and if you weren’t loading the illustration that you gave, but rather of a cold-blooded murder, the other 30 percent perhaps, making up a sizeable number of murders in any one year in this country, do you think that in those instances capital punishment would be a deterrent?
Heffner:What about you gentlemen?
Masini: I don’t have a problem about executing someone who would deliberately assassinate a police officer or even in a gang killing, the deliberate taking of another life. But the caution I would suggest is that that’s not going to help in solving our crime problem very much. I don’t think it will reduce murder very much, and it will have little or no impact on other crimes.
Heffner:So you don’t think of it as a deterrent?
Murphy: I don’t think of it as much of a solution to the crime problem at all. And we’ve made reference to how police officers feel and all of the violence that they’ve been suffering from. Four police officers killed in 24 or 5 days in New York City. Police officers are feeling very deeply this problem of violence. A more sensible solution will be to get at the handgun problem, in my opinion, to begin to control guns that are killing so many police and others, rather than the death penalty.
Heffner:Well, Commissioner Murphy, when Chief Tannian said what he did about this particular first-degree murder, the mother grabbed a gun, I was going to ask him, “What was the gun doing there in the first place?” Isn’t that one of our major problems, that there is a gun there…
Heffner:…and that we still permit…
Murphy: That is a serious problem. When we look at the guns that we confiscate from the criminals, we find out that they have either come from out of state or they’ve been stolen from the good, honest citizens who had them for very legitimate reasons. A very large percentage of the public in this country have been sold a bill of goods that says if you buy a gun, you can protect yourself and you can feel safe. That’s just not true. The odds are that if you own a gun in your own home, that it’s going to be used against you or a member of your family by somebody you already know. And if a stranger comes into your home, say, the President’s Crime Commission is the only study I know that is even reasonably valid, indicated the odds are four-to-one against the gun owner that if somebody breaks into the home he isn’t going to ring the doorbell and knock on the door and say, “Now, get ready. I’m coming”. You know, they come in the dark of night, they come quietly, they sneak in. and the odds were four-to-one that the criminal would get the gun before the homeowner would, and use it against him.
Heffner:Then why all the opposition to gun control laws? Chief Masini, how do you feel about this?
Masini: Well, I certainly would support every action that would reduce the number of small arms circulating throughout the country and in the State of Connecticut and in the City of Hartford. There’s no question about it, there are too many handguns in circulation. And I think that in the interest of everyone there should be adequate controls in terms of registrations so that we know who has these weapons and that they are only in the hands of person who can handle them or should hold them, and can handle them safely. And when I talk about safe handling of a weapon I’m even thinking in terms of seeing to it that they now do not get out of their possession into the hands of persons that shouldn’t have them. So I would strongly support any action of that type, but I recognize that throughout the country in probably most of our states there is not any very strong feeling at the state level for that kind of legislation. I think that while we need to continue to think of encouraging that kind of legislation, we need to act immediately in a way that we can already begin to act. And that’s in terms of wherever an arrest has been made where a weapon has been used, we should be moving very, very forcefully to see to it that, you know, maximum punishment in those instances is meted out. In other words, make sure that at least we’re dealing with the criminal who now has a weapon and is using it for illegal purposes, feels the full weight of the law, maybe before or at least at the same time as we begin to move in the direction of requiring our, again, legitimate citizens who feel they have a right to hold a weapon, to register that weapon and demonstrate that they can, in fact use it and maintain it safely.
Heffner:Mr. Murphy, how do you feel about this strangely American notion that somehow we would be deprived of an inalienable right if we couldn’t have small arms?
Murphy: I don’t agree with that. I don’t think the Founding Fathers ever intended in the kind of society we live in today where people live so closely together. After all, we were an agricultural society when we started. I don’t think it was ever intended that every citizen in a city like Hartford or Detroit or New York should be permitted to have a handgun in an apartment. And until we get some action on the problem, I believe that the murder rate will just continue to go up, up, up. And my view of it is that we need that action at the federal level. I would like to see each of the states do more about it, but we’re all well aware that today the handguns cross state lines. And where there are jurisdictions with tough handgun laws, those guns can move from other jurisdictions where it’s very easy to purchase a handgun. It’s been demonstrated a number of times that in some of our states you can get off the bus and within a half-hour have bought a handgun. Theoretically you’re supposed to leave your name or identify yourself in some way, but in practice it doesn’t seem to work out. So I think we need action at the federal level. I know many police chiefs are beginning to change their thinking on this subject, and I think many policemen. And if we just look at the number of policemen killed in 1974 and ’73 and ’72, I think it’s understandable that they, the police appreciate that they should be speaking out now on this terrible handgun problem.
Heffner:Have the police in this country taken the lead in this campaign or participated in it importantly?
Murphy: Oh, no, no. quite the contrary. Interestingly, the police have not been in the forefront of the fight for control. But I think their opinions are shifting. Some law enforcement people have been advocating gun control, especially handgun control, for many years. But I think of all the police in the country, the sentiment have not been strongly in favor. In fact, there has been some sentiment against. But I think that’s changing, and I’m very encouraged by that change.
Tannian: You know, we’ve got the organization of the major chiefs throughout the United States. And three years ago they took a vote on the issue of pistol control. And I think there were only two votes in support of a national effort to ban pistols. Last year, they took another vote, and one-third now support a national ban, total, absolute ban on pistols in this country. And I think that any police officer who sits down and thinks about it for awhile has got to come to the conclusion that if we didn’t have these millions of handguns out there that are so easy to get into the criminal hands, that his life would be much, much safer, his job would be much, much easier, and the level of violence in this country would come down instead of constantly escalating.
Heffner:Certainly the number of police who have been killed in this country in the past few years have been killed largely with those guns…
Tannian: That’s right.
Heffner:…that you were referring to. And it is so strange that there hasn’t as yet been – although you’re talking about a rising awareness of the problem and a rising willingness to participate in its solution. We don’t have that much time left, but I need to ask you gentlemen a question about young offenders. In the New York Times magazine section recently, there was an article, and a quite provocative one, it seemed to me, about young offenders who seem to feel that there’s nothing very much that can be done to them under the laws that prevail in many of our states, because they are youthful, and perhaps even committing a capital crime, they are liable for imprisonment for only 18 months or two years or whatever it might be, until they reach a certain age. Do you find this a very great problem in the enforcement of law? Or is that overdone, that question of treating juveniles differently from their elders in the commission of crime?
Murphy: I think the juveniles, youths, are committing a very high percentage of all the crime. There are many of those young people who commit crime and have themselves been victims of unhappy family life. Maybe they’ve been abused children, there hasn’t been a father in the home, or for whatever reason, and this kind of society should do all in its power to attempt to salvage them and help them. But when we look at what we are doing, there is much wrong. In many places they are put in with adult criminals. And the places where they are sent for incarceration are not places that help them very much. Some of them become worse while they are in those institutions. But on the other hand, there are some young, violent, vicious criminals who have to be removed from the society for the safety of others. And once again, as we discussed earlier, because we do not know enough about what goes on in our system, we mix too many cases that should be dealt with differently. And there’s a great need for focusing attention at the juvenile level and the youthful offender.
Heffner:Do we have any information that would indicate that deterrence does stem from treating juveniles more closely to the way we treat their elders, or that, on the other hand, by treating them differently and by putting a maximus upon the punishments that can be meted out to them, we lead them to commit more crimes? It is a matter of whether there is deterrence in punishment or not? We talk about correcting people or reforming people, rehabilitating people, it doesn’t end with the day the individual leave the institution, whether that was a detention home, a prison, or a training facility. Is there a job for him when he comes out? And is there something to permit him to become a productive member of the society? And too often with the kids I’ve seen they come out, but again there is no job, and if we look at unemployment rates in some of our ghettos, we can see the problem. And that kid will go right back around the crime… the same peer group pressures, the same neighborhood pressures. It’s no wonder that they go right back to the same activities. Chief Masini has been champing at the bit here.
Masini: Well, no, only because this, you know, now that you’ve indicated you’re getting toward the end of the program, this brings us right back to the beginning of the program in a sense. Okay, we’re dealing with our young people. And for the very same reasons that we’re failing in dealing with adult offenders in the sense that there are the management weaknesses and the resource shortages that don’t permit us to assure a speedy, smooth trial process and movement into a facility where they can be treated, we have the same weakness in dealing with the youthful, with the youths. But I think what’s felt more there is the impact of what I said earlier: that, you know, even with a very, very effective court of criminal justice system, you’re only going to impact this much, because again, if you haven’t solved the basic problems…now, you take these young people, and even when you’ve moved them, and moved them very speedily through this process, now they’re back out in the streets, back out into the community, and they don’t get the education they need, and they don’t get the jobs they need, we’re right back to where we began.
Heffner:Let me ask you a question, Chief Masini, then I’ll ask it of the other gentlemen. It’s the kicker. Do you think there is a criminal type? Do you think there are criminals or there is just a society that makes of any individual because of the way we treat him in joblessness, the poverty of his home situation, etcetera, that makes him, leads him to commit eventually a particular crime? Do you think there’s a criminal type?
Masini: Well, I don’t think there’s the criminal type in the sense of, you know, persons with a certain shaped earlobe and things of that type, but…
Heffner:Certain shaped minds.
Masini: Yes. But I think that there are people who are more susceptible to criminality. And when they live in a certain climate that they’re more likely to turn to crime. But just how you describe, you know, the qualities that tat person has, I don’t, you know, I don’t know. I simply don’t think that there is a criminal type, but just again a criminal propensity against, in some people.
Heffner:Well, you’re putting your emphasis upon the surroundings in which those people with a criminal propensity find themselves. You’re saying absent those surroundings, if we solve our social problems, then presumably these people aren’t going to develop their criminal lines of potential. Bu that’s a tough thing for a lay person to accept.
Masini: I always have to come at that question by asking, “What kind of crime are you talking about? Blue collar? White collar? Political crime? Campaign corruption? What kind of crime?”
Heffner:I can answer that too, because I think I would speak for most people by talking about crimes of violence.
Masini: Ah ha.
Heffner:…crime against the person.
Masini: Good, okay. Now, let me respond to that. If we look at our prisons – even though today we’ve decided littering is a violent crime in some cities – but if we look across the country at all of the prisons, how many people who have committed property crimes are mixed in with the violent criminals, even in the federal corrections systems, where we’re not making sharp enough distinctions? Because that criminal who steals a car, if he hasn’t committed it violently, has committed a property crime to. But if he’s poor and that car is worth only $500, there is a better likelihood he will go to prison than if the vice president of a corporation steals a hundred thousand dollars.
Heffner:Well, the vice president of the nation. Are you suggesting therefore that… (laughter) well, we’ll let that pass for a moment. Are you suggesting that perhaps if we differentiated victimless crimes on the one hand and along with them property crimes from the crimes against persons, and if we could concentrate on apprehending those who have committed crimes against persons, we might be solving our problem a lot faster than putting them all together as we do now?
Masini: I think so. I attended a meeting recently on corrections, and one of the people in attendance was from Holland – or, he wasn’t from Holland, but he described the situation in Holland – where the length of prison terms apparently had been less and less. But more people are going to prison even for driving while intoxicated, which maybe we couldn’t afford with all of our more serious problems. But apparently in that society violating the law, whatever your status, whatever your place in the society, tends to result more often in punishment or deprivation of liberty, even though it may only be ten days in jail. And we, our system, it seems to me, does not work that way, because we’ve learned of all kinds of inequities in sentencing, different judges have different opinions about what crime is more serious and send people away for longer periods. So more of an emphasis on punishment and long punishment rather than some punishment, but then efforts to reform and provide mobs and the other things that are needed.
Heffner:Well, let me ask the two active chiefs here whether they would prefer to see less by way of emphasis upon the victimless crime and more emphasis, enable you to put the resources that you have to bear upon those crimes that have victims, crime against persons.
Masini: I’ve got to take a slight issue with what I think Pat said when he gave that a “yes” answer. My problem with that is that the person who is poor, probably of a minority group, is not sophisticated enough to pull those property crimes, those victimless crimes. And so his crimes tend to be the violent type. And so what you’re suggesting is that we move all our resources to deal with the poor and the minority type crime, and that the white-collar crime does as much to take away from the moral fiber of this country as any of the violent crime does. So I, in fact, put a significant amount of my resources into dealing with that. We’ve got an organized crime task force that, we’ve arrested and indicted doctors and lawyers and teachers. And we are, in fact, working very hard to go after that kind of crime. And I think we ought to. But at the same time we’ve got to deal with the violent street crime.
Heffner:Chief Tannian, when you say that I think about what you said at the beginning of the program: your concern for those who have been apprehended for crimes of violence and very quickly you find that they’re out on bail, they’re set free. Isn’t that a function too of overcrowded courts? You talked about poor administration of courts. Isn’t it a function, to some extent at least, of courts that are clogged with victimless crime charges? Or do you do you think…
Tannian: I can’t speak for other cities, but as far as I’m concerned in the City of Detroit that’s absolutely not true. It just, the facts do not support that conclusion by any stretch of the imagination. They are not clogged. They are not well managed. They could be managed much, much better, and handle all of the victimless crime workload that comes along. And I think a couple of other impressions I have been given that I think I will have to take just a very slight issue with. One is, we have had a little reliance upon rehabilitation or use of that word. And in my conversations with the psychiatrists and psychologists where I live, they tell me that the state of the art is not such that that is, in fact, available to us. That that’s merely in the discussion stage. It is not a fact, and yet in the criminal justice process we tend to talk about it as if that is a fact, just like we walked on the moon. “You in fact do have rehabilitation.” You don’t. The psychiatrists tell me that they cannot guarantee rehabilitation of any individual or group of individuals. And to the extent that it occurs, they don’t really know why it occurs. And I think that needs to be recognized.
Heffner:In a half-minute, now.
Tannian: Well then, maybe the answer is prevention. I think some people can be rehabilitated if they can get jobs when they come out. I think there are kids who committed crimes, maybe property crimes, and it had something to do with the lack of a decent job. And if somehow you could get them a job, maybe that’s the rehabilitation. Maybe it doesn’t take place in the institution. But I think jobs…
Heffner:Chief Masini, how do you feel about that? Very briefly.
Masini: It’s tough, very briefly. I think that we can expect a certain amount of rehabilitation. But to go back to Jerry’s point, clearly when we’re talking about people in the system, there are some people who would stay in the system simply because they haven’t been rehabilitated and they’re not ready to go out on the street. And I think that’s what jerry was getting at.
Heffner:And that’s the point at which we have to stop our conversation. I’m sorry gentlemen. But thank you so much for joining me today for our discussion of the police view of law and order, Patrick Murphy, former Police Commissioner of New York City, President of the Police Foundation; Hugo J. Masini, Chief of Police of Hartford, Connecticut; and Phillip J. Tannian, Chief of Police of Detroit, Michigan.
And thanks, too, to you in the audience. I hope you’ll join us again THE OPEN MIND. Meanwhile, as another old friend used to say, “Good night and good luck.”