Over the past two years, the reputation of law enforcement has been decimated. Some people have, for years, accused law enforcement of unfair treatment of African Americans. In May of 2020, the videotaped murder of George Floyd by the convicted Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin threw gasoline on those glowing embers of mistrust.
2020 brought the summer of riots throughout the country. Police precinct buildings were burned to the ground by rioters. Police cars were torched and protesters took an ‘us against them’ position against the police. In 2020, murders in America rose 30%. Local businesses were destroyed by rioters. Other violent crimes also increased. Lawlessness in cities has become so bad that it has become common place to see groups of people walk into open businesses and steal whatever they want and walk out.
During this same time there has been a trend toward leniency by prosecutors. In an effort to be fair toward people without the means to come up with bail money, bail for those arrested for these crimes has been significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. Too many of these people are released the same day they are arrested and commit the same or worse offense within days.
Do those accusing police of bias have a case? Historically, African Americans have been treated unfairly in many ways. There are many legitimate examples of prejudice documented within police departments.
While efforts have been made to avoid such treatment of people on the basis of their race or nationality, the way African Americans are treated by police continues to be a problem in some police departments. From the perspective of the police, in many jurisdictions the ratio of crimes committed by African Americans is significantly higher than their proportion of the population. This caused police and others to look at African Americans with suspicion, much more so than was deserved. African Americans feel harassed and documentation can show that in many areas, they have been treated more harshly than whites. If you don’t believe this, read Unified, by Senator Tim Scott and Trey Goudy. Scott has a vanity plate on his car indicating he is a US Senator. He put it there hoping that it would reduce the number of times police stop him just to check him out.
Things have improved over time, yet there is a long way to go. It has not helped that some make the assumption that law enforcement is only as good as the worst police officers on the force.
Would you encourage your son/daughter...to become a police officer?
A significant cross section of Americans, including some politicians on the left, have concluded that the answer to the problem is to defund the police and, in some cases, to even attempt to eliminate police departments and replace them with some kinder and gentler system of civil engineering. Those pursuing these ends paint all police departments as systemically racist and in need of being taken down. Their rhetoric toward police is hateful. They stand with their cell phone cameras ready, hoping to catch every cop in making a mistake. Over the past few years, respect for law enforcement has declined and has been replaced with animosity, especially in large cities.
Since 2020, many police agencies have seen a spike in retirements and resignations. In some locations, retirements have increased 45% since the Floyd murder. Asked about the reason for the increase, many point to the lack of support by community leaders and the community at large. Big city police and sheriff departments are woefully understaffed. According to Police Chief Magazine, in some locations, new recruit washout rates are as high as 98.5%.
So here are some questions. Would you encourage your son/daughter, grandson/granddaughter to become a police officer? Why? Will police and sheriff departments have to lower standards to fill positions? If standards are lowered, will incidents of police misconduct rise? Hopefully you see the spiral developing.
Policing is a local issue. I hope you will pay attention to what local candidates for mayor, district attorney and sheriff have to say about this problem. What are their ideas for solving the crime problem? What will they do to support and improve local police departments? It isn’t an easy problem to solve but unless it is solved, our quality of life will continue to decline.