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.