He is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. He moves through Harlem, therefore, like an occupying soldier in a bitterly hostile country, which is precisely what, and where, he is.
—Nobody Knows My Name, by James Baldwin
THE soldier of the cities is the cop, I his front line the American ghetto. Harlem, Watts, Roxbury, Hough, Hunters Point, the South Side, Dixie Hills, Bedford-Stuyvesant: these are the battlegrounds whose names are inscribed in rubble and resentment and fear of worse conflagrations to come. Already this year, serious disturbances have broken out in 211 cities and towns. Even when they are quiet, vast areas of the American metropolis today resemble combat zones, volatile, bitter and suspicious.
Police forces around the country are stepping up recruiting. Armories are stocking weaponry that ranges from small, knockout-spray atomizers to tanks. Training is being reoriented and intensified. And slowly—sometimes too slowly—the best forces are beginning to re-examine the concepts that have guided policemen for generations, trying to look upon the citizens of the slums not as foes but as fellow men and a commanding social challenge.
Nowhere is more being done in these respects than in Los Angeles, scene of the first cataclysmic riots of the '60s. No police chief is acting more vigorously or imaginatively to prevent new outbreaks than Los Angeles' Thomas Reddin, 52, who understands that the cop today must not only be a well-trained soldier but a "streetcorner sociologist." Says Reddin: "This is the year when the public will suddenly realize that the policeman has more to do with the state of our nation than any other man on the streets today."
State of Siege. Every major city is now prepared to deal with a summer of violence. The state of siege that results from crime and assault is even more widespread and lasts year round, from January to December. The President's Commission on Law Enforcement found last year that one out of every three Americans is afraid to walk alone in his own neighborhood after dark.
In Boston, office girls refuse to work alone after 6. In Kansas City, hospitals have trouble finding night nurses. Prudent Chicagoans try not to ride the el after dark, and attendance at White Sox games is down, not merely because of the team's poor record. Nearly everywhere, often without even consciously thinking about it, city dwellers are adjusting their lives, their residences and their jobs to the fear of physical violence. Parks that once were playgrounds on hot summer nights are now virtually empty. Iron bars and heavy mesh cover exposed windows, while doors are double-and triple-locked.