The police officer occupies a distinctive position in American life. Dressed in his uniform and driving his distinctively marked cruiser, he is the most visible symbol of civil government and serves as a reminder that society is governed by rules that citizens are expected to follow. A compact exists between the officer and the government that he serves. The officer does his job in the knowledge that it comes with significant risk to his personal safety; he accepts this risk with the understanding that the government affords him certain protections, especially in cases where he may have to use reasonable or justifiable force.
Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers—and with the resulting social upheaval—that compact has been now tossed aside. Today, the police officer is an object of derision and scorn, viewed not as a remedy to crime and disorder but as a cause of it—at least to an uninformed but influential minority, which includes members of the government and media. As the police officer endures this reaction, he knows crime and disorder haven’t abated. Indeed, both have increased alarmingly in many places. But now, if the officer uses force to bring a lawbreaker into custody, the legal protections that he once enjoyed will be abrogated, if necessary, to appease that same minority.
How else to explain the speed with which Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe was fired and charged with murder after he shot and killed Rayshard Brooks on June 12? How else to explain why Rolfe’s partner, Devin Brosnan, has been charged with aggravated assault and violation of his oath? After the tumult in Minneapolis and elsewhere, Atlanta’s authorities clearly sacrificed both officers in the hope that their city wouldn’t be looted and burned. There isn’t a cop in America who hasn’t feared being in Rolfe’s place.
The press conference at which Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard announced the charges was an insult to cops everywhere. Particularly striking was Howard’s description of Brooks’s behavior up to the moment when the officers tried to arrest him for drunk driving. “Mr. Brooks, on the night of this incident,” said Howard, “was calm, he was cordial, and really displayed a cooperative nature.” He added that while Brooks was “slightly impaired,” his demeanor was “almost jovial.”
Anyone experienced in dealing with drunk drivers can watch the video and see that Brooks was more than “slightly impaired.” Reportedly, the preliminary breath test administered before Brooks was shot revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.108 percent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it was much higher, or that he was under the influence of something in addition to alcohol. It’s telling that the toxicology report from Brooks’s autopsy hasn’t been publicly released.
Meantime, Howard’s description of Brooks’s demeanor reveals a dismaying credulity regarding police interactions with drunk drivers, many of whom are just as calm, cordial, and jovial for as long as they think that they won’t be arrested but turn on a dime when they realize that they will be. This is especially true of people on probation, as Brooks was, who face the prospect of jail time for what otherwise would be considered a minor crime.
Police now face the knowledge that their superiors and the politicians to whom they answer will sacrifice them without a second thought if it meets the approval of the woke mob and the political leaders and media figures who amplify its demands. Take over an entire neighborhood in downtown Seattle, including a police station? No problem, says the city’s mayor—it will be a summer of love! That didn’t turn out to be the case.
Too many still believe that the police are at the root of what troubles America’s cities, but reality has a way of reasserting itself—often cruelly. In New York City, where the city council has voted to cut $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget, weekly shooting incidents in mid-June increased by 358 percent over the same period in 2019. In Chicago, homicides are up 34 percent so far this year compared to last year, and nine children have been killed since June 20.
This wave of violence hasn’t aroused even a fraction of the outrage that attended the deaths of Floyd and Brooks, a fact not lost on the nation’s cops. I spent the latter half of my 30-year LAPD career as a supervisor, encouraging officers to extend themselves in the effort to reduce crime. Given the present political climate, if I were still in that position, I couldn’t offer that same encouragement in good faith.
America’s police have gotten the message: they’re the problem. And they’re responding accordingly. How many more lives will be lost before the country sees through this lie?
Photo by Jeenah Moon/Getty Images