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SIR: It is not at all surprising that young punks have made certain areas of the District of Columbia places of terror. For years they have known that anytime they were caught by the police, the cry of "police brutality” would protect them. They have for years openly defied the policemen, and they have received the support of the courts in this.
Instead of requiring reasonable care of property where they live, many tenants are allowed to tear up the places where they live and then cry for sympathy. A case in point is the public housing project recently reported and pictured in your paper. These had been well built and in good condition when the tenants moved in.
Newspaper, radio and television editorials are demanding increased trash and garbage collection—now that burning has been stopped at Kenilworth. Pictures of refuse clogged backyards and alleys are being shown as feeding and breeding places for rats. Why has no one had the courage to say that it is the responsibility of the people themselves to keep their garbage and trash in covered cans and not just throw it out-of-doors? Even if the D.C. Sanitation Department had daily collections, the rats would still multiply from garbage thrown out each day.
C. W. B. [The Evening Star, Mar. 4, 1967)
View On CRIME SIR: Michael Adams, an unusually able and conscientious writer, in his column on “The Crime Problem” (Feb. 25) reported me as saying, “what we should do with this public housing is put a fence around it and armed guards." “Mike” misheard and misunderstood. I have checked with several of those present at the federation meeting Feb. 23, and they have confirmed my own memory of what I actually said, which was this:
“Eighty-five percent of crime in the District is perpetrated by repeaters. If we are serious about reducing crime, repeaters must be put under lock and key, and not left to roam the streets to commit new crimes against law-abiding citizens. If they are locked up, it makes little difference if they are locked up at Lorton or Occoquan or provided similar ‘public housing' at Anacostia-Bolling with a fence around it and armed gu ds. We will need a great deal of prison housing to take care of the vast army of repeaters, and the limited space in our prisons at Lorton and Occoquan has been the reason for many criminals being released on the public before being rehabilitated.
GEORGE FRAIN, Executive Vice President, Kalorama Citizens Association.
(Editorial, The Sunday Star, Mar. 12, 1967)
THE PROBLEM, UNEQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW The inscription carved in bold letters over the imposing entrance to the Supreme Court building suggests that the nation's highest tribunal is dedicated to the concept of Equal Justice Under Law. The fact is that the court, in major rulings in criminal cases in recent years, has been dispensing a brand of justice that is deplorably unequal. And this is what the shooting has been about this past week in the hearings before Senator McClellan's subcommittee.
Assuming that law-abiding people have rights, and we think they have or should have, these rights have been recklessly disregarded by a majority of the court. The President has often spoken of the right of the people to be secure in their homes, on the streets and in their places of business. Each day brings new evidence, however, that this is rhetoric and nothing more. For the people are not secure anywhere. And this insecurity is due in considerable part to the extreme lengths to which a five-man majority of the court has gone in enlarging and protecting the rights of criminals. Reading such opinions as those in the Escobedo and Miranda cases, one might think that the court majority has never heard of the rights of the public--and couldn't care less. Certainly it does not subscribe to the view expressed by Justice White in his dissent in the Miranda case that "the most basic function of government is to provide for the security of the individual and his property.”
This process of shielding the criminal at the expense of the public safety grew out of a laudable purpose to erect safeguards against criminal convictions based on coerced or involuntary confessions. There was ample reason for this some 25 or 30 years ago. For the third degree, even in those relatively recent days, had
not disappeared from the law-enforcement scene. And a coerced confesion is both offensive to one's sense of justice and unreliable as an item of evidence.
The trouble is that the court has not known where to stop, has lost all sense of keeping the scales in balance. The notion that the purpose of our system of criminal justice is to convict the guilty and absolve the innocent is out the window. The commendable effort to erect greater safeguards against involuntary confessions has been carried to such lengths that entirely voluntary confessions are now in jeopardy. In fact, Justice White has said that the court majority seems to be moving in the direction of barring all confessions. He could very well be right.
The hearings which Senator McClellan has been holding have moved along two main lines. One effort has been to find a way to reverse or at least to minimize the pernicious effect on law-enforcement of the court's 5 to 4 rulings with respect to confessions. The other has been to work out legislation to strengthen the hand of those whose duty it is to enforce the laws.
This second undertaking, largely concerned with legislation to permit the use of wiretap evidence and electronic bugs, presents few problems. Congress will get no help in this from the President or the Department of Justice. Still, at least as of this time, there seems to be no constitutional barrier to such legislation.
The subcommittee received a very strong statement on these matters from Chief Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Lumbard was especially concerned with the problem of organized crime. It is, he said, almost impossible to curb it under existing restrictions on enforcement agencies.
Opponents of wiretapping sometimes misrepresent the "dirty business" comment by Justice Holmes in support of their stand. In a reference to this, Judge Lumbard said: "There is no dirtier business today than the business of organized crime; it rules by violence and terror; it victimizes the public and corrupts public officials. Every possible resource of government should be used to expose and destroy it."
He meant that he thought Congress should move without delay to sanction the use of wiretaps and electronic devices, under suitable controls, and we heartily agree.
The question of what to do about the unreasonable and unneeded obstacles which the court has erected against the use of voluntary confessions is a tougher question. For the five-man majority wrapped its Escobedo and Miranda rulings in constitutional interpretations. And this, though the interpreatations were gross distortions of what the Constitution says, makes it difficult for Congress to remedy the rulings.
Senator Ervin, himself a former judge, would take two approaches. First, he would amend the Constitution to overcome the effect of the court's rulings on confessions. Second, with the support of 19 other senators, he has introduced a bill which would strip the Supreme Court and other Federal appellate courts of jurisdiction to make such rulings as those in Escobedo and Miranda.
What he is trying to do, and it is a worthy objective, is to get back to the decades-old state of the law in which the test of a confession was whether it had been made voluntarily or not. If voluntary, it would be admissible. And the Supreme Court would not be permitted to throw out a voluntary confession by reading something into the Constitution that was never before thought to be there.
The constitutional amendment route is long and difficult. And while Congress, under Article III of the Constitution, apparently has authority to regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, this would be a drastic remedy. One must hope that some other way can be found—even assuming that Congress would accept the Ervin proposal.
A somewhat different approach is being urged by Senator McClellan. He, too, would re-establish the admissibility of voluntary confessions. But he would do this by having Congress spell out the meaning of voluntariness and set up standards by which a trial judge and jury would make the judgment on this question. Should this be tried, the Supreme Court might say that the new law is unconstitutional under its own rulings. But the senator hopes that at least one member of the majority, upon further reflection, might change his mind.
Various other recommendations have been laid before the McClellan subcommittee, including a strong statement from Senator Bible urging rectification of the notorious Mallory rule. And we hope that Congress, which for years has been marching up and down the crime-remedy hill, will at last be moved to take effective action.
Still, even though nothing finally emerges in this session, time will not have been wasted. For these hearings and the strong statements by most of the witnesses
are a reflection of the mood, not of a few men on Capitol Hill, but of the overwhelming majority of the American people. A President or a Supreme Court justice may be personally remote from contact with crime. But the people are not; they live in its shadow every day and every night. And they are sick and tired of unequal justice. The volume of crime is going to continue its upward climb, and sooner or later the people will make themselves heard.
A final word: Some people think it is almost subversive to criticize the Supreme Court, and that any criticism must spring from ignorance or malice. Let them read the dissenting opinions of Justices Harlan, Clark, Stewart and White. No more severe condemnations of the majority rulings can be found than those which appear in these dissents. And if the five members in the majority will not heed even the protests of their own brethren, they will have no one but themselves to blame as the Supreme Court and, still worse, the law itself, falls into disrepute.
(James J. Kilpatrick, article in The Evening Star, dated Mar. 16, 1967, entitled "Anger Mounting on Crime
Issue'') Getting back to this business of crime: A very real possibility is growing that the 90th Congress, fed to the teeth with crime here in Washington, will undertake to beef up the President's "safe streets” legislation with some no-nonsense provisions on the interrogation of criminal suspects. In the process, the Congress could wind up eyeball to eyeball with Chief Justice Earl Warren, just across the street. It is a fascinating prospect.
There ought to be no mistaking the growing sense of anger in the Congress. Recent months have seen the issuance of two massive reports on crime: and not to put too fine a point upon it, these reports have laid two massive eggs. The first of them, a prolix two-volume affair on crime in the District of Columbia, was couched in the tapioca pudding prose of professional sociologists; it went unread. The second, on crime in the United States, was much better, but it too was largely concerned with long-range measures for uplifting the disadvantaged criminal and leading him back to salvation.
Members of the Senate, notably McClellan and Ervin, do not discount the need for long-range measures. These are all well and good. But their primary concern, just now, is for the adoption of immediate measures to offset the damage done by the high court in the line of cases that runs from Mallory to Miranda. They look about them, in Washington, and see an appalling contempt for law and order; and they find the cops hamstrung in trying to fight it.
One specific example is worth a hundred generalizations. In the 13 months from January 1966 through January 1967, the Peoples Drug Stores in the Washington metropolitan area experienced no fewer than 31 armed robberies and 62 burglaries. More than $100,000 was stolen. One store manager was robbed by three men at gun point in November. He was robbed again on Jan. 8, again on Jan. 22, still again on Jan. 25. “The manager and all employees tendered their resignations,” said the president of Peoples, “and it was necessary to close the store permanently.”
It is not in Washington alone that public resentment is mounting, and it is not only the Washington police who are concerned at the limitations put upon them. Senator McClellan last week took ten pages of the Congressional Record to publish letters from chiefs of police scattered from Binghampton, N.Y., to Lane County, Oreg. These were excellent letters, literate, knowledgeable, emphatic; they came from professional officers whose lives are spent in the dirty, grubby business of fighting crime.
One of the best of them is from Oklahoma City's Chief Hilton Geer.
“For too many years," he wrote, “the psyche of social welfare has been allowed to supplant social responsibility, and one of the results is reflected in a growth of lawlessness that threatens the roots of this nation. * * * Too often, the concern of society has been with protecting the rights of the accused, including analyzing his subconscious, without regard for the rights of society or the victim of crime. If, as some say, the criminal is the product of his environment, then what of the other and much larger public that is of this same environment but respects the law?''
Police Chief Harry W. Hird, of North Olmstead, Ohio, hypothecated a case in which a police officer hears a woman screaming. A male runs from behind her house. The officer grabs the man and asks him, “Where have you been?” At that moment, the suspect's constitutional rights have been violated. “My honest feeling,” said Hird, “is that we are going overboard to protect the criminal in recent decisions, and it is about time to protect the honest and law-abiding citizen.”
Police Chief L. J. Campbell, of Columbia, S.C., echoing these sentiments, summarized three actual cases in which his officers had found themselves frustrated in making investigations. Chief S. D. Knutson, of Grand Forks, N.D., added some hard observations on the soft treatment accorded hardened juvenile offenders. Chief Paul Shaver, of Albuquerque, summed up the general feeling of law enforcement officials in a single paragraph:
"These court decisions, in effect, have not caused less respect for law and order by criminals and hoodlums because they have none to begin with. They have caused a lack of respect for the police, being unable to enforce the law, and a lessening of fear for the consequences, if caught.”
McClellan, Ervin and their determined colleagues may get nowhere. It is a tricky and difficult business to find statutory means for upsetting court decisions construing constitutional guarantees. Ervin has proposed a constitutional amendment, but he would have trouble getting it through the Congress. Nevertheless, congressional fires are burning, and they may yet cook up a bill far stronger than the President-or the chief justice--really wants to see.
Capitol HILL SOUTHEAST CITIZENS ASSOCIATION,
Washington, D.C., February 14, 1967. Mr. James T. CLARK, Clerk, Committee on the District of Columbia, House of Representatives, Washington,
D.C. DEAR MR. CLARK: This is to thank you for your letter of February 10 keeping us advised of developments within the House District Committee relative to the Anti-Crime Bill.
Consistent with our association's previous statements and resolutions, we are still urging stronger and more direct legislation that will enable society to cope with the criminal, and, eventually, perhaps eliminate him from the social scene, at least to the extreme extent to which he is now seeming to have full freedom to operate.
We believe, and have believed throughout, that one of the more hidden circumstances allowing rampant crime to go on as it has, is that the public has never been able to get a true perspective on how extremely high the crime load actually has been in terms of individual criminal acts on a day-by-day basis. We get lump statistics and we get scattered newspaper reportage of the one or two most sensational of the crimes committed daily, but we do not know what central police headquarters know this total actually to be, because the official policy has always been to minimize this and to keep it from wide-spread public knowledge. The citizen, then, though he knows generally that the crime load is heavy, is kept from interpreting this in terms of his own personal and immediate concern. At the same time we are charged again and again with listlessness in cooperating with the police and with indifference to efforts to improve law enforcement. This is totally untrue and unfair since much of this seeming indifferenceif it exists at all--derives from keeping the wraps on full and open information that the public should have no matter how bad or shocking it may be.
So, in accordance with your letter stating that the sub-committee handling the anti-crime bill will be pleased to receive recommendations, our association would like to make a specific proposal for committee consideration and for possible inclusion as a provision in the bill. This is: that the bill carry a section that would require a periodic compilation, available on request to anyone who asks for it, of the crimes one-by-one as they have been committed throughout the city. This is the basic thing the public needs to know if its full interest and support is to be marshalled for any sustained and continuing drive on crime. As a corollary to this, the public needs to know, even more, what the final dispositions are of the cases that have gotten to the stage of an arrest having been made. Because there has been no such follow-up reporting to the public on the disposition of criminal cases, the general impression gets more and more confirmed that law enforcement everywhere has been reduced to a mere finger-shaking exercise in futility, with the consequent public disillusionment that now exists.
There is no chance in the world of this kind of reporting being made available to the public unless it is specifically required by legislation, and we think that, in an open society, open accountability to its citizens of the stewardship public agencies held for them is a very first obligations. So we urge that the House Committee give a considered evaluation to this proposal.
It is pertinent, I think, for me to mention here that just today, the publicservice announcements of letters by the District of Columbia Savings and Loan
League and of the Peoples Drug Stores Company to the President and addressed also as well to the members of the House and Senate District Committees have been made public in the newspapers. We call attention particularly to the Peoples Drug Stores letter which, in affect, does voluntarily what we are recommending be made mandatory as regular procedure by legislation. The Peoples Stores letter carried a list of crimes committed against their stores all over the city from January 1966 to date. We believe that a similar consolidated police blotter report of all crimes committed against everyone everywhere in the city would be a very helpful testimonial to the public of the intention to follow-through with uncompromising law enforcement and we think this would restore public confidence so badly needed.
Our association is planning to suggest to the Peoples Drug Store Company, as one more public service contribution they can make, that they determine and publish at some appropriate later date a case-by-case report on how many of the criminals committing these robberies and burglaries have been apprehended and just what the law enforcement procedure has resulted in against them in each case. This, in effect, is what the second part of our proposal to the committee would cover.
The long-time record of our association in speaking out on these matters has been made available to the public, to the Congress, to the Crime Commission and to the District of Columbia Commissioners. We feel that congressional action now, hopefully including what we have suggested, is the crucial factor in whether law enforcement will go ahead effectively, or whether the situation will settle down once more to another period of virtual surrender to the forces that apparently, from the record, society has just not been capable of controlling. Sincerely,
J. C. LEUKHARDT, Member, Executive Committee.
THE CITIZENS AssociATION OF GEORGETOWN,
Washington, D.C., February 17, 1967. Mr. JAMES T. Clark, Clerk, Committee on the District of Columbia, U.S. House of Representatives,
Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. CLARK: Thank you for your letter of February 10, 1967, concerning anti-crime legislation for the District of Columbia.
The Citizens Association of Georgetown is most concerned with the crime problem and is intensely interested in proposed legislation on that subject. At its February meeting, the Association was addressed by Mr. Herbert J. Miller, Jr., Chairman of the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia.
The anti-crime bill as sent to the President at the last session was, of course, complex legislation dealing with many different aspects of the subject. While we heartily approve of the purpose of the bill and the general thrust of its provisions, the Association has taken no specific action on the merits of the legislation or of other anti-crime proposals, nor would the detailed study that would necessarily precede such action be possible within the ten-day period from February 10th mentioned in your letter. In view of the President's veto, the issuance of the exhaustive Report of the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia, and other developments since Congress last acted on the subject, we believe it would be highly desirable to have hearings at which the subject could be explored anew and any proposed amendments to last year's bill given full consideration. The Association would wish to participate in such hearings when they are held. Yours sincerely,
Robert F. EVANS, Colonel, U.S.A. (Ret.), President.