Jonathan Gramling
Publisher & Editor

Contributing Writers
Lisa Peyton-Caire, Eileen Hocker,
Sujhey Beisser, Theola Carter,
Fabu, Lang Kenneth Haynes, Heidi
Pascual, Paul Kusuda, and Donna

Heidi M. Pascual
Vol. 10   No. 19
SEPTEMBER 17, 2015
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The Capital City Hues
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Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                               Resource Allocation
I had had my nose to the grindstone the last couple of weeks, putting out larger than usual issues of The
Capital City Hues and trying to take care of a lot of other things on the side that I do to make ends meet, so I
hadn’t been paying a lot of attention to the local news. When I received Fabu’s column for this issue of The
Hues, it was the first I heard about some remarks that Everett Mitchell, the pastor of Christ the Solid Rock
Baptist Church, had made about the focus of police on shoplifters at places like WalMart and Target,
resulting in an inordinate number of young African Americans to become involved in the criminal justice
system. Apparently this statement was misconstrued to mean that Mitchell was telling African American
youth it was okay to steal.

I found this to be pretty preposterous because I know Everett and I know that he would not, as a former
assistant district attorney and as a pastor, encourage people to steal from their fellow man. I knew there
was a different message that he was trying to send.

In these times of limited public funds, governmental bodies must fulfill their missions — or at least appear
that they are attempting to fulfill those missions — by allocating scarce resources according to the priorities
that they have established. Back in the late 1990s when I was a graduate student at UW-Madison in political
science, we used to call it “satisficing.” We didn’t meet the objective perfectly, but perhaps did enough to
tide things over. We just couldn’t do everything that we needed to or were required to do because we just
didn’t have enough to go around to get it all done. So we did what we could with what we did have.

In essence, that is what President Obama was doing when, a few years aback, he basically published new
rules on how people who were undocumented would be processed and deported. Since he lacked the
resources to process everyone equally at the same time, he prioritized who would be processed first. And in
essence, he said the priority for deportation was individuals who had committed a serious crime. And his
lowest priority — one could argue non-existent priority — was to deport Latino children who had been
brought to the U.S. at an early age, were obeying the law and were doing something positive with their lives
like going to school or serving in the military.

Now the Republicans did all kinds of hollering and saying that Obama had exceeded his authority. But
Obama was just making decisions as an executive on how he was going to allocate his resources in the
best interest of public policy. And within the scheme of things, he felt that Latino children were a low priority.

Now when institutions do set their priorities, they have to make sure that they don’t have a discriminatory
impact. This has nothing to do with intent. It has to do with impact. For example, during the 1980s, a
delineation was made between crack cocaine and powder cocaine with users of crack cocaine receiving a
lot stiffer sentence. It just so happened that crack cocaine was cheaper and more readily available in
America’s inner-cities and so, an inordinate number of African American men started getting caught up in the
criminal justice system and ended up in our prisons.

The allocation of police resources can also determine who ends up caught up in the criminal justice system
and in our jails. For example, in the early 1980s, the Simpson Street community experienced an influx of low-
income refugees from the violence of other large urban areas. There was an explosion of drug use,
particularly crack cocaine, if my memory serves me correctly, and the resulting violence that was coming
with it to control the drug trade. Federal, state and local law enforcement resources were brought to bear on
this problem, programs like Weed & Seed. It resulted in many arrests, convictions and jail sentences.

Now I would submit that there are two primary functions of the police department. One is to enforce the laws
that are enacted by the city council and signed by the major. The second is to keep the population secure, to
give the population a sense of security. This second role will determine how the scarce resources of the
police department are allocated. And in order to make the metropolitan areas and its citizens feel secure, an
inordinate amount of resources were allocated to law enforcement in the Simpson Street area to get a
handle on the drug trade and violence that were occurring in that neighborhood, a neighborhood that was
predominantly African American at the time.

And while this was an instance of enforcing the law, there was more to it than just enforcing the law. The
police were enforcing drug laws, but they inordinately focused the enforcement, rightly or wrongly, on select
neighborhoods with large African American populations. Meanwhile, there was also a lot of marijuana and
powder cocaine usage that was going on in other, more predominantly Euro-American neighborhoods, but it
wasn’t perceived to be a threat to security — even though those drug sales made the over all drug trade
more profitable — and therefore, the allocation of resources to arrest the law breakers just wasn’t made.
There was law breaking of the drug laws all over the metropolitan area, but the law enforcement resources
were allocated to predominantly African American neighborhoods, resulting in an inordinate arrest of African
Americans even though their usage rates were at or below the rates for Euro-Americans.

I think it was that kind of policy emphasis that can result in disparities that Everett Mitchell was trying to get
at and I think it is an excellent policy discussion to have. Let’s keep talking.
Special Feature this Hispanic
Heritage Month Issue: