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Are the Police in America Broken?

Are the Police in America Broken?

Based on yet another wrongful killing of an apparently innocent black person by police, we are getting renewed calls for massive national reforms.  There are calls to resurrect the George Floyd Act that passed the House following the death of the namesake – but never was picked up in the Senate.  

According to the critics, policing is broken all across the nation – from the major police departments in large cities like Chicago and New York to the local sheriff’s offices in places like Lame Deer, Montana.  

The political left has promoted the narrative that the police are the bad guys.  This has resulted in unprecedented unprovoked attacks on police – some deadly.  It has also meant plunging morale that has led to a record number of retirements and a reduction in new recruits – hitting hardest on the most vulnerable crime-ridden communities.

But is law enforcement really broken – and are reforms needed?  Or are the abuses overstated?  Or … would the reforms further hinder the police from doing their job to “serve and protect”?  That is not an unreasonable question.  Many of the restrictions and legal actions against police have diminished enthusiasm for effective enforcement. 

It has tipped the balance toward too little aggressive enforcement.  And yes, if police are to do their job, they need to be aggressive – like running to a shooter instead of thinking about what to do.  Aggressive action does not mean unnecessary brutality, however.  It is a balance that every police officer faces in highly dangerous situations.

To understand the issues of George Floyd and Tyre Nichols – and the need for reform – we have to view those cases from the big picture.

There are more than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers in America.  They make more than 4.5 million arrests each year.  On average, there are more than 1000 incidents in which a police officer kills a suspect using a gun.  Individuals killed by police by means other than a gun are minimal – although subject to enormous public attention.  We have seen that over and over.

It is noteworthy that more than 75 percent of all police officers will never use their guns during their entire career.

Of the roughly 1000 people killed by police each year, more than 550, on average, are white … roughly 300 are black … 225 are Hispanic … a little over 100 are of unknown ethnicity … and Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders are less than 30.  

Police critics know that the death rates for blacks and Hispanics run higher per capita than for whites.  They point to that as racism.  But not so fast.

There are two facts that may explain the discrepancy other than only racism – the blame of choice among the left. 

The segregated minority communities in our Democrat-run cities represent the highest crime rates in the nation.  That alone would lead to enhanced police presence, disproportionate arrests, and potentially more fatal incidents.  Also, Hispanics are categorized by their last name and language.  That means a lot of white people of Spanish background are included in the minority figures. (The left operates under the false theory that there are no Hispanic Caucasians … that the only white people are from Europe and Australia.)

Despite the actual statistics, the Democrat/Fourth Estate Combine focuses primarily on the deaths of blacks at the hands of police.  It is impossible to believe that among the more than 550 whites killed by police, there are not at least a couple of questionable cases – especially since the Democrat/Fourth Estate Combine proffers an argument of pervasive police brutality.

What the statistics tell us is that the George Floyd and Tyre Nichols cases are tragic — but they are extremely rare.  

There can be no excuse for the inappropriate actions by the VERY few police officers who go rogue.  And the good news is that, for the most part, the system of justice handles those matters.  When an officer engages in criminal activity, the law responds.  Verdicts in individual cases may not satisfy everyone, but the system works better than ever.

Does the entire profession of policing need to be reformed?  Not really.  The police reform movement is a red herring – nothing more than crying wolf for political reasons.

Currently, police procedures are very restrictive.  The kinds of restraints suggested by proposed national legislation are mostly in place already.  There are police regulations that outlaw choke holds unless it is a life-threatening situation.  What happened to Floyd and Nichols was not due to a lack of proper procedures or training.  Those cops violated them and the law.  That is why they got arrested, indicted, and – in the case of Floyd – convicted.  That suggests we already have laws necessary to address bad cops doing bad things – not a need for more federal power-grabbing legislation.

Other provisions of proposed federal legislation may place a barrier to police safely enforcing the law.  The “no knock” warrants are issued on a very small percentage of crimes – and only when forewarning targets can result in opportunities to flee, secure weapons or destroy evidence. Eliminating them could make life more difficult and dangerous for police – and our communities less safe.

Then there is the issue of offering police LIMITED liability.  Insulating police for a barrage of lawsuits in our litigious society – motivated by political activists and lawyers – can only hamper police enforcement. That limit on liability does NOT prevent criminal prosecution or civil lawsuits – as we have seen in the Floyd and Nichols cases.  It does prevent legal harassment and frivolous lawsuits.

Then there is all that talk about … more training.   The Floyd and Nichols cases were not the result of lack of training.  The police involved were ignoring the training they received.  That is on them – not on the police profession.  There is nothing in the proposed national legislation that would have prevented what happened in Memphis and Minnesota – just as we have laws against bank robbery, but banks get robbed.

If we look at the ENTIRE world of policing in America, I think we would have to conclude that, by-and-large it is working pretty damn well. In most of the cases, improper police conduct has become news fodder, it was a matter of individual police (out of that 800,000) acting badly – and they were subjected to justice.

Rogue cops need to be ferreted out and brought to justice if need be.  But we do a great disservice to police in general and harm to public safety if we smear the profession with the misdeeds of a VERY few.

Having said all that, we have to be resolute in monitoring and maintaining civic pressure on our local police to make sure incidents of racism and violence are properly addressed.  Most Americans appease the work police do in protecting the public – and according to polls, that is also true in minority communities. 

They are the last people who want to defund the police or banish them from the community.  Nichols’s mother noted the distinctions when she said that most police are good.  She knows because she has known them.

The left’s attack on policing is making their necessary job more difficult – and only the criminals will benefit.  What those specific police did to Tyre Nichols does not represent police of policing in America.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Rat Wrangler

    Too many people in our society see things strictly as black or white. All police bad. All Republicans bad. All Democrats bad. All bad. And so on. Most police officers are decent people, but there are people who cannot recognize that fact. I do not believe we should remove qualified immunity from all policemen, because the rich and/or famous could then get out of tickets and charges simply by threatening to sue the officer. Instead, we should change the immunity to only applying to officers who obey the law and follow all documented police procedures. Any officer caught violating them in the commission of his duties would lose all immunity, and be subject to potential civil suits. Officers not caught in such a violation would be immune to all civil suits related to the job. That will not only force officers to be more aware of their actions but would also force police departments to rewrite a lot of their procedures to remove any ambiguous ones.

  2. Christopher Lepper

    Sadly it is not our police or our hospitals that are broken, but in fact, our legal system. If we don’t get tort reform allowing employers to state reasons for discharge without fear of lawsuits then this will continue and get worse. violent cops and murdering nurses are summarily passed from one department or hospital to another because no-one dare write down WHY they are being discharged.
    Cities and other government bodies have protections built in. For instance, if a bad pothole has caused multiple accidents and or death, the agency can repair the pothole without the “Repair” being used against them in court. To save lives!!!! When a hospital or police department determines a particular employee is dangerous, they simply find a way to let them go, with no comment on their employment record, for fear of reprisal.
    These people move from one agency to the next, often in the same town. In one case , a nurse moved from hospital to hospital across the United States and the death toll is still actually unknown but is thought to be in the hundreds
    Write your congressmen and get protections for police, fire , and healthcare facilities at least.

  3. Richard Young

    THE POLICE ARE NOT BROKEN, the people are. When someone is stopped or pulled over at a traffic stop and that officer asks you for your license, registration and for you to exit the vehicle, YOU COMPLY with that officer or officers and don’t argue or fight with them. All of those “unarmed” men who were killed in the past by cops would be alive TODAY if they had simply co-operated with those officers like George Floyd and now Tyre Nichols. Stop blaming the cops for everything. The next time a “black” person gets stopped by the cops, try complying with them and you will have a greater chance of survival instead of dying!

    • frank stetson

      Oh come on, there is no way Mr. Nichols deserved death by a beat down by a gang of cops. No way.

      How many stood by and did nothing.

      I agree with standing by cops, and when they yell: FREEZE, if you move you may be shot. Not the “it’s only some property,” so let them slide, we can get them later. But this was murder of an unarmed non-violent skinny guy, plain and simple.

  4. frank stetson

    Yeah, sure is a lot of talk from both sides. I don’t see any problem with national benchmarks for safety and liabilities; the rest is just talk, not gonna go anywhere.

    Larry, I think a main issue is qualified immunity. You note that it didn’t matter in the Floyd case but it does. The family sued the city, the city does not have qualified immunity, just the officials. Therefore, I do not think the parents could sue the individual cops.

    That’s why it is important to pass the Floyd act so we can sue individuals with civil cases. There is no reason to provide individual protections against these heinous acts if they are culpable. As well as the city as we can do today.

  5. Nick

    Floyd was a degenerate criminal who overdosed. Here’s a news flash, if you can’t breathe you also cannot talk. Floyd’s parents lawsuit was nothing more then a get rich quick ploy and a way to blame anyone but their son for dying. Floyd chose his criminal lifestyle which directly led to his death but no one wants to make him responsible for his actions and choices. Not every death is a tragedy

  6. frank stetson

    Wow, the city settled for $27,000,000 before the actual trial began.

    They should have let Nick handle the case, could have save $27,000,000 dollars with his superb reading of the law and his ability to do forensics from behind his PC screen.

    • larry Horist

      George Floyd was murdered by police. We could see the problem — and a jury made that decision. I agree with the verdict. However … $27 million is an obscene civil award. Only government — influenced by politics — would have agreed to such an award.

  7. Ac

    How policing stands, as I read Larry’s view, police departments in general are doing the job pretty well given their work environment’s challenges
    However, isn’t it true, Tyre Nichols’ needless death by police may not be the last of its kind in America.
    Police force personnel come from among us all. Only, they are trained to be professionals in their field, policing. We, the public, expect their professionalism will over-ride their opinion motivated bias. No matter the circumstance they are in, natural reflex from personal opinion, bad day, and peer pressure are irrelevant. It comes down to professional training implemented in real time with practice.
    Doctors, Nurses, Lawyers, teachers, accountants, economists, ministers in religion, with all other career professions are either mandated or personally elect to take refresher courses or up to date training class. Police professionals would be well served to voluntarily opt training in necessary skills for modern policing.
    Anger management/ aggressive bias management sessions should be a police department core remediation training coarse mandated before routine job assessment and review. The nature of policing in the contentious world environment we live in demands no less, or it, policing, ultimately fails.
    No question, we the people continually fail. The objective fact of the raw divisions separating us from our fellow citizens is testimony sufficient for proof of our failing daily. And, what are our excuses for our bias laden animosity toward someone choosing their own way with an opinion and perspective different from and not in lock step with our own chosen opinions and perspectives?
    What determines which of the opinions is right, beneficial and practical for all souls in America?
    The point is no one’s opinion and perspective provides the answers. Democracy does not work its best or efficiently until everyone has the opportunities only, now, are allowed individuals with privilege in our culture
    Tyre Nichols together with to many others before him got denied their right to have opportunities like life, liberty, and any kind of pursuit of happiness. No one in America regardless of differences, whatever those maybe, is less than any one of us. No more no less deserving in this country, that ones life is forfeit on the judgement of another, especially not in the case where multiple police officials are involved using unwarranted inhumane tactics.
    Of coarse we all get horrified and angry. It is a terrible gruesome thing. I myself could not bring myself to watch the video. But, given all the same factors at play on the scene, how would any of us behaved? Don’t give me sanctimony and self righteous platitudes. We should be humbly relieved, the majority will not find ourselves in that place force to make choices and respond in fatal error.
    Many are heard repeating a common refrain in times like this, something must be done ( positive change) so that this terrible thing ( police violence resulting in someone dying) never happens again.
    Reality rears it ugly head here, for this or another grossly inhumane event is sure to come. Our cultural systemic hate, angry prejudice, fomenting racial biases, and blatant disregard for another’s basic wellbeing is the sure predictor. These injustices, too, will come to pass.
    Usually, I am not this darkly negative and pessimistic. But history and present circumstances not changing for the better with divisions deepening daily. Reality’s voice speaks loudest and over the crowd of hopefuls and denier do nothings
    True the is, one individual succumbing in death by police is one to many. How many they have become is on police and us the rubber necks passersby wagging our heads in dismay. And, then the mounting incidences with real lives taken are collateral damage, the human life lost cost of dying business as usual.


  8. AC

    In your previous commentaries you opined on the argument pertaining to our nation’s judicial system not being systemically racist. Person’s of non Caucasian races, then, receive equal treatment to Caucasian persons in any and all sorts of encounters with the police out in their community while going about doing their personal business. Non Caucasian persons stopped for an alleged traffic violation will receive equal consideration as would a Caucasian person being pulled over for the same offense. Is that how it plays out in your America?
    Well, your opinion tracks right in step with boilerplate conservative doctrine. It works for you because it’s a messy complex social problem conservative Caucasians don’t experience other’s insecurity while they are living with next to nothing , circumstances that produces suffering and pain.
    Without personal direct experience it follows that one can’t understand what life is like living in fear that one day you or someone close will have the police surround their home, bang on their door, scare the wits out of those inside, and have no clue about why. Or, they receive a phone call from the police with a notice of their son’s encounter with the police who put him in lockup, or the hospital. And, what gives the police any suspicion that brings on their officious display of authoritative power undeservedly on persons who are defenseless.
    Whether or not that person needs to answer for some thing.
    Those who are without privilege in the judgement of the police and the Caucasian class are in fact unequally perceived in society, so, various opportunities enjoyed by white individuals will not be afforded non-white supposedly co-equal citizens.
    A well read intelligent mature socially aware unbiased politically rational sane individual may possibly exhibit the barest modicum of humility and admit failure. Failure in your nearly 8 decades on this planet and with your stellar bio resume that your sight is diminished and perspective limited. So you perceive the world through a glass more empty than it is full.
    The conservatives mind looks for another to lay on any blame for what is in their perception as wrong, evil, and mendacious.
    Truth is, the conservatives are at least as much in the wrong and warrant receiving appropriate blame. For laying society’s ills on their opponents, the Democrats, is scape goating responsibility.
    Larry, go ahead with your opinions, it your right and this space is your bully pulpit. But, know that your asserting some opinion as fact based on your depth of knowledge in multiple disciplines will not validate any story. Solid documentation is a central factor in serious professional journalism.
    The opinions that are my story as I tell it are not in anyway purported as journalism. They are anecdotal in your estimation.
    On the other side of the ledger. Those stories appearing on your PBS by line rank as one off and that is that, anecdotes from a memoir. An appropriate genre would be Historical Fiction, loosely based on actual events from America circa mid 20th and early 21st century. Recreational reading as no annotations are provided, nor does the author include a glossary with idioms, terms, and word use origins.
    If otherwise substantially important answers to the current day’s burning questions while not random suggestions for debate, but answerse that provide pragmatic reasoned remedies no one in Washington would come up with on their own.
    Wouldn’t the powers that be, the current majority in the USHofR come knocking in Boca, Florida?
    Why not, Biden and Larry are of the same vintage, while Trump is only a few their junior. Together, putting their minds to the task at hand, couldn’t these statesmen solve the problem that is vexing the nation.
    Inequality between people due to prejudice being allow and its running rampant in all levels of society, home mortgage banking, education, government accountability, policing, civil and criminal justice, economics, employment, and more. You name a sector in present day culture and check out its information facts. Take the data and determine if equality am opportunity exist.
    What do you see? Does democracy reign through out the land, or are a great multitude of folks being locked out, racial prejudice and systemic bias penetrates deep and wide in all of us. Both the disadvantaged economically poorest through the ranks including those owning the greatest opportunities and monetizing their privilege status
    Still sticking to your story that the USofA has no systemic ( top to bottom) racial prejudice and no prejudicial bias what so ever.
    OK, then. Which planet in space did conservatives come from that propagates the lies behind the convenient conspiracy theory promoting the non existence of racially motivated prejudice, predominantly the belief of white conservative Republicans.
    News Flash! Racial prejudice is systemic in society at large. All people of every race are biased toward persons who do not look like them. And, that fact is just the first initial bias all individual hold for others.
    Now, prejudice represents several levels in one’s emotions and drive obsessive ideation and unrelenting support in one’s denial of systemic sickness prevailing like a cancer in our democratic foundation under the Republic of 50 states and several territories.

    Be this as it maybe. Go get a good long long look and see. Then act justly toward all.

  9. Ac

    Democrats are the majority in urban areas because Republicans vacated cities and ran to suburban housing development comfort, white entitlement, and a coupe zip codes away from their black and brown neighbors.
    White flight in the 1960’s started and continues to this day. Only when old neighborhoods are cleaned up. When white contractors swoop in under landlords’ renovation orders, gentrification “improvements” disposes previous renters, young white Republican professionals move in and displace black and brown folks.
    Over time Republicans will take cities back into the
    red fold.
    Then your people can fix city problems of pubic
    health, public schools, public parks, streets, public water infrastructure, and all the
    other issues brought on by Republican neglect, a combination of power display, greed, and innate racial bias.
    Republicans are incessantly repeating an untruth more mendacious with each
    proclamation that America is not racist and those claiming otherwise are pure woke
    First, the term woke has been misappropriated by the right so often the term is meaningless , diffuse, and has no bite. It originated from black-hood speak so, the word used stupidly by white Republicans is out of its rightful context. Woke is a purloined fragment and a part of the black culture mosaic. In other places it sounds ridiculous for the speakers ignorant insensitivity.
    Second, Saying an untruth over and over in Trumpian fashion will not magically transform it’s false state. Believing deeply in some purely fabricated fiction will not ever work to a good end.