Order and Civil Liberties: A Complex Role for the Police

The Honorable Edward J. Jeffries was Mayor of the City of Detroit at the time. He was a great mayor; but he had not known that this terror was imminent or that it was even possible. This attitude was shared by most of the city’s residents, and to say that Detroit was not ready for this outburst of racial strife would be to put it mildly. In this respect, every mayor in America would find it useful to read a recent journalistic account of the events of that twenty-four-hour period. The authors of this commentary were not very kind in their judgment of Detroit. With the benefit of twenty-two years of hindsight, it is easy to criticize the lack of preparation and the failure of performance which left thirty-six people dead on the streets of Detroit and army units in command of the city. Nevertheless, whatever may have precipitated this violence in 1943, it is clear that in 1965 no one will make excuses for any city’s inability to foresee the possibility of racial trouble in any large city in this country. The warnings from the summer of 1964 and the 1965 Los Angeles riot are too recent. Therefore, the following discussion is dedicated to seeking answers-in advance of disaster.