It’s difficult to put oneself in the shoes of a cop, but it seems clear that many partisans lack an appreciation for the intensity and danger of police work, which is fundamentally about protecting the public from threats to life and property. Confrontation is an unavoidable part of the job, whether it involves a domestic disturbance, drunk and disorderly conduct, property crime, or a shooting. Situations are adversarial and officers often face significant mortal risk. These are very brave people.
It would be impossible to do a cop’s job without legal authorization and occasional use force, but it can be very hard to judge when that’s necessary. A cop’s beat can feel like a war zone. There’s not much time to think. Things happen fast. Bad things happen really fast. Calm is restored in the best of circumstances, but arrests may be necessary, and sometimes a situation escalates or is already so fraught that it ends in tragedy. Sound procedures help police do their jobs better, but outcomes are capricious, and it is all too easy to make harsh judgements about split-second decisions in hindsight. Like any other accused, when a police matter ends badly, the cop is entitled to due process. Depending on circumstances and evidence, that means cops deserve a fair margin of error in the conduct of their duties.
To take a recent example, the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta occurred after Brooks wrestled with officers when they attempted to put him in handcuffs. Brooks broke free and snatched one of their tasers. As he ran, an officer pursued him at fairly close range. Brooks turned and fired the taser at the officer, shooting too high as it turned out. But the officer returned fire within an instant, three shots, striking Brooks in the back twice. Was that justified or reckless? The videos shown on the networks are in slow motion, but decisions like that can’t be made in slow-mo. The taser might have struck and disabled the officer, or in rare circumstances even killed him. And some tasers fire more than once; if one or both officers were disabled, their guns were potentially up for grabs. Either way, the use of his firearm seems to have been within Georgia law and Atlanta Police Department guidelines. No one should pretend there was time for careful deliberation. However, none of that dissuaded the Fulton County DA from filing immediate murder charges in a politically charged atmosphere. That’s hardly due process.
Of course there are bad cops and racist cops, but they comprise a distinct minority. Certain reforms might help to keep them from abusing their power, get them off the force, or convict them, depending on the nature of the offense. Qualified immunity gives excessive cover to bad cops and has protected far too many from prosecution. It’s regrettable that Senate Republicans have refused to consider modifications to qualified immunity, but perhaps they are holding it back as a negotiating ploy. Monitoring the conduct of officers is obviously important, and anonymous peer review within departments would be an excellent mechanism for identifying problem officers. Some reform proposals would certainly reduce the likelihood that police actions will be unjust, regardless of individual attitudes: ending no-knock raids and decriminalizing drugs would be major steps forward on that front.
The brutal murder of George Floyd has brought much more radical calls for changes in policing — even defunding or dismantling entire departments. These are based on widespread assertions that police are biased against blacks and that unjust police violence is directed at blacks. There is conflicting evidence on that point, however. Harvard Professor Roland Fryer concludes that while there is no evidence of racial bias in the use of lethal force by police, there is some evidence of bias in the use of non-lethal force. Other facts make the latter conclusion seem dubious, however. Consider the patterns of criminal activity described at the last link by Barry Latzer, CUNY Professor of Criminal Justice:
“The latest police data collected by the FBI indicates that blacks comprised 58 percent of all murder arrests and 40 percent of those apprehended for all violent crimes. This disproportional involvement of African Americans in violent crime turns out to be the most significant factor of all in explaining the use of force against blacks by police.
It will be no surprise that violent criminals in the United States are commonly armed and dangerous. For assaults, for instance, 71 percent of arrested persons carried firearms. Among suspected murderers, 58 percent had guns, as did 42 percent of apprehended robbery suspects. This tally doesn’t include the knives or blunt instruments recovered from violent offenders, including over 48,000 cutting instruments possessed by those arrested for assault alone.”
Latzer cites a number of studies of lethal force by police. One of these studies found:
“… after controlling for numerous factors, that blacks were 27.4 percent less likely than non-Hispanic whites to be fatally shot by police.”
Other researchers have noted:
“… the absence of any correlation between the race of the officer and that of the victim. That is, after controlling for other factors, white police officers were no more likely than black officers to fatally shoot black civilians. In fact, the more black officers on a police force, the more African Americans were fatally shot.”
Another finding by the same study:
“[O]fficer race, sex, or experience did not predict the race of a person fatally shot beyond relationships explained by county demographics. On the other hand, race-specific violent crime strongly predicted the race of a civilian fatally shot by police, explaining over 40% of the variance in civilian race. These results bolster claims to take into account violent crime rates when examining fatal police shootings.”
The most tragic aspect of all this is that the vast majority of black crime victims are victimized by other blacks. Here are 2018 statistics for homicides. While blacks account for about 13.5% of the U.S. population, black offenders accounted for nearly 45% of homicides in 2018, and black-on-black homicide accounted for nearly 40% of all homicides.
Crime in the black community, and its economic costs, are inflicted almost exclusively on other blacks. If there was ever a need for good policing, this is it. The reasons for disproportionate crime and violence in the black community are complex. The notion that there is “systemic racism” at play here might be correct, but again, the evidence suggests it is not the fault of police. The welfare state plays a major role, as Walter Williams has long asserted. There are many more children living without fathers in the black community, a product of misdirected social policy that awards greater benefits to single-parents households. High rates of male incarceration obviously compound this problem. Blame can also be ascribed to a dysfunctional system of public education, and our nation’s continuing insistent on prosecuting the War on Drugs is highly destructive.
The campaign against police is promoted by a number of leftist organizations, the most prominent of which are Black Lives Matter and Antifa. Other well-meaning leftists do not question the rhetoric of police racism, and they also tend to fall for the illusion of collectivist virtue. Don’t accept this bullshit! It won’t help blacks as a class. We’ve known for some time that BLM is a Marxist organization, as is Antifa. Lawrence Person quotes BLM co-founder Patrice Cullors: “We are trained Marxists.”
According to Alexandra Phillips:
“BLM happily self-identifies as a neo-Marxist movement with various far left objectives, including defunding the police (an evolution of the [Black] Panther position of public open-carry to control the police), to dismantling capitalism and the patriarchal system, disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure, seeking reparations from slavery to redistribute wealth and via various offshoot appeals, to raise money to bail black prisoners awaiting trial. The notion of seizing control of the apportionment of capital, dismantling the frameworks of society and neutralising and undermining law enforcement are not just Marxist, but anarchic.”
Identity politics provides a rich trove of grievance, guilt projection, and intimidation. But it won’t end there. They will use any and all means to subvert civil society in order to gain power, and there will be a high cost in terms of freedom, lives and human well being. These people are ruthless morons. One doesn’t have to look far to learn that the histories of Marxist revolution and attempts at governance are uniform in their failure and bloody mayhem.
Too many “nice people”, media, businesses, and other institutions are all too willing to accept BLM and Antifa propaganda unquestioningly, including their stupefying lies about disproportionate police violence against blacks. Yes, there are black victims of police brutality, and there are many white victims as well — criminal justice and police reform is not to be dismissed. Unfortunately, there is a large disproportion of violent crime committed by blacks against blacks. Many in the black community know all too well that good policing is desperately needed. Quite simply: no cops, no peace, no justice.