April 24, 2010

I don't think Judge Andrew Napolitano yesterday gave Neil Cavuto quite the response he was looking for when he asked him about Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's predictably bad decision to make hers the first official police state in the country for immigrants.

See, every other paid Fox News Analyst that day had been sturdily defending the bill. Not the Judge:

Napolitano: She's gonna bankrupt the Republican Party and the state of Arizona. Look at what happened to the Republicans in California with the proposition --

Cavuto: What happens?

Napolitano: Ah, Hispanics -- who have a natural home in the Republican Party because they are socially conservative -- will flee in droves. She's also gonna bankrupt her state, because no insurance company will provide coverage for this. And for all the lawsuits that will happen -- for all the people that are wrongfully stopped -- her budget will be paying for it. Her budget will be paying the legal bills of the lawyers who sue on behalf of those that were stopped.

This will be a disaster for Arizona -- to say nothing of the fact that it's so unconstitutional that I predict a federal judge will prevent Arizona from enforcing it as soon as they attempt to do so. That will probably be tomorrow.

Judge Napolitano is an interesting mixed bag of an analyst. Sometimes he's just a flat-out nutcase. At other times, he's a sharp and insightful guy. This was definitely one of the latter occasions.

I think what Arturo Venegas, Jr., former chief of the Sacramento Police Department and project director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative, had to say bears repeating:

“The passage of SB 1070 in Arizona is a catastrophe for community policing, with repercussions that will be felt by law enforcement officials across the country. The actions of the state legislature and Gov. Brewer are an unfunded mandate to Arizona police and are clearly rooted in concerns over politics, not public safety. No police officer should have to put arresting an undocumented immigrant over catching a violent criminal to avoid a lawsuit, and no victim or witness of a crime should be afraid to report it because he or she will be deported if he or she speaks to police.

“This law will drive a wedge between police and the immigrant and Latino communities not only in Arizona, but around the country. Trust between law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve is the cornerstone of community policing, and departments across the country have been working for decades to develop strong relationships with the community. Latinos and immigrants across America have been watching Arizona with fear, and will retreat deeper into the shadows now that this bill has become law.

“Today is a very sad day for the majority of us in law enforcement who believe that effective policing is based on community trust. I hope the federal government will heed this wake-up call and take long-overdue action for comprehensive immigration reform to protect our communities, and I am deeply disappointed in Governor Brewer and the Arizona legislature for passing this dangerous, costly, and ineffective law.”

It's important to understand that this kind of approach means that real violent crime is going to increase in Arizona. That's certainly what has happened in Maricopa County, under the regime of Crazy Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose approach to emphasizing immigration enforcement has served as the inspiration for this bill. As the conservative Goldwater Institute found [PDF], such an approach meant skyrocketing rates in real crime:

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is responsible for vitally important law-enforcement functions in one of the largest counties in the nation. It defines its core missions as law-enforcement services, support services, and detention.

MCSO falls seriously short of fulfilling its mission in all three areas. Although MCSO is adept at self-promotion and is an unquestionably “tough” law-enforcement agency, under its watch violent crime rates recently have soared, both in absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions. It has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally, and to extensive trips by MCSO officials to Honduras for purposes that are nebulous at best. Profligate spending on those diversions helped produce a financial crisis in late 2007 that forced MCSO to curtail or reduce important law-enforcement functions.

In terms of support services, MCSO has allowed a huge backlog of outstanding warrants to accumulate, and has seriously disadvantaged local police departments by closing satellite booking facilities. MCSO’s detention facilities are subject to costly lawsuits for excessive use of force and inadequate medical services. Compounding the substantive problems are chronically poor record-keeping and reporting of statistics, coupled with resistance to public disclosure.

Meanwhile, the tiny handful of remaining Arizona Hispanic Republicans issued a statement on the new law that blamed President Obama. Because, you see, he hasn't managed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Never mind that this bill was entirely a creature of the Republican Party. For some people, Denial is a state as big as Arizona.

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