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Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023

Will Whitehorn Handcuff Deputies?

Doing away with street stops hampers law enforcement

Whether you call it preventative policing or proactive policing, Caddo Parish sheriff candidate Henry C. Whitehorn Sr. says he doesn’t support such police tactics to fight crime, even though statistics show crime rises exponentially without such. Apparently, Whitehorn now opposes police officers conducting street stops (even though he regularly practiced such policing while on the police force as part of Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover’s “Community Oriented Policing Division” in 2008).

This means that if Whitehorn became sheriff, he would handcuff his deputies from stopping anyone on the street who, for example, might match the description of a suspect or stopping someone on the street who tosses an item into some nearby bushes when they see the officer patrolling. His deputies would be discouraged from stopping anyone whose vehicle might closely match the description of a vehicle driven by a suspect in a crime or stopping anyone on the street who appears to be engaged in a crime, like someone prying open a window or a man roughing up another person.

There’s no legal basis for Whitehorn’s abandonment of this common investigatory tool for law enforcement when there is probable cause. The 1968 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio clearly establishes a law enforcement officer may investigate criminal activity if they have reasonable suspicion of such, and if the officer believes his safety or that of others is endangered, “he may make a reasonable search for weapons of the person believed by him to be armed and dangerous.” This (was) is common practice for thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country.

And it was for Whitehorn also (before this election, that is). Before now, Whitehorn fully supported using street stops as an investigation tool. See his interview with The Times (back in 2008), where Whitehorn explained, as a police officer, “We don’t stop people just to stop people.”

That’s certainly true, and he did practice what he preached (back then). He encouraged his police officers (back then) to stop anyone for whom they have a reasonable suspicion is committing, or has committed, a crime. He explained, in that same interview from 2008, “This is a tool in our tool box to try and get a handle on violent crime, the quality of life issues that (are) impacting our community, that (are) causing the perception in our community that Shreveport is unsafe.”

Again, that was then. This is now. Whitehorn’s opposition to street stops sounds like a crazy way to fight crime, especially when doing so has failed time and time again. Chicago did away with such street stops in 2016, and street stops conducted by Chicago police officers declined by 80%.

The results? There were more illegal guns on the streets of Chicago, plus an estimated 245 additional victims killed and approximately 1,100 other victims shot during that same year. Some say that Chicago policing has never recovered, and with only 1 out of 3 murder cases in Chicago resulting in an arrest, even today, you can see why.

Another example is in Philadelphia, where they, too, ended street stops, and, as a result, crime skyrocketed. Currently, the leading candidate for mayor, Cherelle Parker (who is a Democrat), is campaigning for street stops again because violent crime is surging, robberies will more than double in 2022, and she says, “We cannot afford to take any legal tool away from law enforcement.”

But Whitehorn wants to do just that in Caddo Parish – plus bail reform. Bail reform? Yes, on KTBS, Whitehorn told reporter Jeff Beimfohr, “Jeff, we’re going to need to have some real serious conversations about bail reform.”

Like zero cash bail? Do you mean like no bail at all? This also has been attempted in several jurisdictions – New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles – and the result is always more crime. For example, one study concluded that individuals released on zero bail were subsequently rearrested for a total of 163% more crimes than individuals released on bail.

The bottom line is the safety of our fellow citizens in Caddo Parish is too important to play politics with, or to experiment with any pie-in-the-sky ideas that have already failed to reduce crime, and in many cases, increases crime instead. Is Whitehorn more interested in curtailing criminal behavior or protecting criminals?

If done correctly by police, street stops are a legal and effective method to get dangerous criminals off the streets – and if you doubt that, just look at the homicide rates in jurisdictions that prohibit their police from using street stops, not to mention the increased number of police officers killed in the line of duty, as a result.

How we got to where a run-off candidate for sheriff is actually campaigning on handcuffing his deputies by preventing them from making street stops while simultaneously advocating for bail reform or a revolving door at the jail is beyond me. All I know is the data and the law don’t support Whitehorn’s claims, and Caddo Parish can’t possibly be any safer if he is the sheriff.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in 318 Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, and on American Ground Radio at 101.7FM and 710 AM, weeknights from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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