Have you hugged a cop today? Critical race “theorists” posit that racism is baked into our culture. Since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020, the national press has framed cops as poster boys of a society infused with racism.
There are 18,000 federal, state, county and local police agencies in the United States, and close to 1 million law enforcement officers. Police agencies range in size from one to more than 30,000. Yet police are painted by some media with a broad brush as blatant racists.
Here is part of a 2020 editorial from The New York Times: “The fundamental issue is whether the police — the institution of policing as it exists in the United States — is racist. And once we look at this clearly, we understand that the answer must be yes.”
Serious birddogging is required to ferret out academic studies about whether police shootings are, in fact, racist. But one such study was published in the 2019 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Michigan State University’s Joseph Cesario and David Johnson of the University of Maryland assessed hundreds of fatal police shootings since 2015. Here are five key findings:
n the officer’s race “does not predict whether a black or white citizen will be shot;”
n “officers of all races are statistically less likely to shoot a black than a white person under the same circumstances;”
n the strongest predictor of being shot by the police is whether the person was engaged in violent criminal behavior;
n “of all citizens shot by police, 90 percent are armed with a weapon and between 90 and 95 percent are attacking the police or another citizen;” and
n a person is more likely to die from a bee sting than from assault by the police.
Factually, police officers are also far more likely to be murdered by civilians than vice versa. As of July, according to the National Fraternal Order of Police, 150 officers had been shot and 28 were killed. On average, Criminology and Public Policy says, not even counting federal officers, 245 cops are shot each year, 42 fatally.
Worse, 13 of the 28 officers slain by July were ambushed. The yearly average number of ambushes, where officers have no reason to expect threats, is 215. The website Lawenforcementtoday.com says 2021 is on track to be “the deadliest year for police in decades.”
Police work is not the most dangerous. That distinction belongs to forestry. Accidents from harvesting trees are serious. But trees don’t shoot or ambush workers. Violent people do murder police officers, however. That’s why policing is the atypical vocation where workers wear bullet-proof vests.
Statistics indicate that more, not fewer, police are needed. According to the FBI’s quarterly Uniform Crime Report, “In the last three months of 2020, homicides rose 32.2 percent in cities with a population of at least 1 million.” In the country as a whole, violent crime was up by 3 percent in 2020 (over 2019) and there were 25 percent more murders.
Akron, Ohio Police Chief Ken Ball said the proclivity toward knee-jerk reactions and Monday-morning quarterbacking of police shootings ignores and undermines “the brave men and women of this organization who go out every single day and put their lives at risk to get the job done that is so difficult and so dangerous.”
Speaking of the post-George Floyd riots in its community, The Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote, “In their wake, vandals left a trail of smashed doors and windows, covered hundreds of boarded-up businesses with graffiti and set fire to nearly 150 buildings, with dozens burned to the ground.” Across America, according to the Insurance Information Institute, post Floyd riots cost an estimated $2 billion.
Nationwide, between April 2020 through April 2021, police retirements were up by 45 percent; resignations grew 18 percent. The New York Times said over one-third of Asheville’s police department left.
One Asheville officer who resigned was Lindsay Rose. Asked why, Rose said, “I’m walking away to exhale and inhale. I’m drowning in this politically charged atmosphere of hate and destruction.” She said she was shunned by the Asheville gay community. At one gay event, she said, some yelled, “All gay cops are traitors” at her.
We’ve looked from afar at the thankless world of police officers. Now, I invite you to take a front-row seat and see a real police ambush. The footage, from an Aug. 30 attack, was posted by a local television news station: https://bit.ly/3kQMQ9o
It just may make you run out and hug a cop.
Michael Smith is a Southern Pines resident.