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Undermining Justice

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eye on the news

Undermining Justice

Progressive politicians’ anti-police statements will hurt most the very groups they claim to defend. April 16, 2021
Public safety

On Sunday, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was killed in a Minneapolis suburb. Following a traffic stop for expired registration, officer Kim Potter shot Wright, apparently intending to tase him, as he fled arrest for an open warrant. (Wright and another man had been charged with first-degree attempted aggravated robbery in December 2019.) Potter has since resigned and been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Coming during the trial of officer Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd, Wright’s death threw fuel on a simmering fire: about 80 people were arrested in the area on Tuesday night for throwing bricks and bottles and inciting riots.

Meantime, progressive politicians have issued nonsensical statements that will further harm the communities now ablaze. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), for instance, tweeted on Monday: “Policing in our country is inherently & intentionally racist. Daunte Wright was met with aggression & violence. I am done with those who condone government-funded murder. No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can’t be reformed.” Such rhetoric provokes the mobs currently destroying infrastructure and businesses, but the damage goes beyond property. As riots rage, cops grow more discouraged—and less willing to take the risks inherent in proactive policing. The resulting de-policing creates lawlessness that invites further violence and criminality, as experience and a growing body of research confirm.

This pattern has unfolded over the past year. After Floyd’s death last May 25, gun violence spiked in Minneapolis as residents chanted “Justice for George.” In June 2020, the monthly average of shooting victims in Minneapolis rose from around 15 to approximately 100, while shootings themselves were up almost 100 percent from the prior year—and 82 percent of the victims were black. Data from early 2021 show that the number of gunshot victims wounded is up 250 percent from a year prior; rape is up 22 percent and robbery 59 percent. Another post-riot spike will spell hundreds more black shooting victims. Is that justice?

Not to be outdone, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) tweeted on Tuesday: “Daunte Wright’s killing was not a random, disconnected ‘accident’—it was the repeated outcome of an indefensible system that grants impunity for state violence, rewards it w/ endlessly growing budgets at the cost of community investment, & targets those who question that order.” Disparaging the entire profession of policing does a disservice to the more than 500,000 full-time cops who come running when your child is abducted, your husband hits you, or you hear a bump in the night. Such attacks from public officials will dissuade bright and motivated young people from joining police departments, a trend already generating a recruitment crisis.

Echoing the point, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted: “In the closing days of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, Brooklyn Center police killed 20 year old Daunte Wright, another Black man, during a traffic stop. This violence is a basic part of police interactions with communities of color. It must stop.” Omar ignores Chauvin’s and Potter’s actual offenses, which stem not from racism or from following official protocol but from blindingly obvious negligence. Blaming the rules and culture of policing makes it harder for departments to recruit qualified, talented individuals.

Progressive politicians reveal their unseriousness when they turn to proposed solutions. Consider President Obama’s call for America to “reimagine policing.” One can’t realistically reimagine the core function of the police—to enforce the law responsibly—as much as one can dream up a fantasy world in which enforcement isn’t needed. Or consider the response from Tlaib’s office to criticism. Rather than deploying police, they write, “we should be expanding the use of mental health and social work professionals to respond to disputes before they escalate.” In what universe will therapists respond to open gun warrants? Or to counterfeiting, sex crimes, gun violence—even driving with unregistered plates?

The modernization of policing over the past century was a feat of vision, bravery, and compassion. Reforms—including proactive and community policing strategies, the innovative use of data, and such technological advances as body cameras—have dramatically reduced police shootings, use of force, corruption, and negligence. At the same time, effective policing helped push homicides and violent crime, which disproportionately affect blacks and Hispanics, to levels far below what experts and politicians ever thought possible.

As reflected in their recent statements, progressive politicians’ attitude toward police and policing is destructive. Law enforcement should continue on its trajectory of increased accountability and community partnership. Better policing, not less policing, will mean fewer black men dying in police confrontations—and in the violence that too often follows them.

Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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