I don’t doubt Christopher Young’s sincerity when he wrote the op-ed in the New York Post. He says he is a progressive, and I don’t doubt it. He’s certainly not the only police officer who thinks that the War on Drugs is a failure, wants reform in other areas, etc. He then lists four police myths that he wants to debunk. The problem is that he’s wrong. My old mean-ass editor, Scott Greenfield, wrote a column on it at Simple Justice, and it’s good. It’s just not from the cop standpoint.
I was a police officer in Texas for over 20 years, starting in the housing projects of a major city. I’ve been in patrol, and have supervised patrol, detectives, training, administration, and parking enforcement, among other duties. I have taught in the classroom at the academy and at in-service training, and was also a firearms instructor. I am also retired military, serving on both active duty and in the reserve, both as enlisted and as an officer.
So let’s go through his comments, and address each, one by one.
1) Police are killing large numbers of civilians. That’s simply not true. In New York City, the police department has meticulously tracked every shot fired by its officers since 1971. These officers represent roughly 5 percent of the entire American force, so it’s a large sample. The NYPD’s annual report shows a dramatic, sustained drop in killings by police — from 93 in 1971 to just five in 2018. Christopher Young, New York Post Online, Dec. 27, 2020
As of today, according to Mapping Police Violence, 1,066 people have been killed by police in 2020. Last year, it was 1,037. The Washington Post database has similar numbers. This year, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there have been 296 police deaths in the line of duty, up by 103%. That’s misleading though, because it includes 180 deaths from COVID-19. Without that, it is 116 deaths, and only 45 by gunfire. That’s a 22% decrease from 2019, which had a 20% decrease from 2018. The things that are constant is that about 15-20% of those killed by police are unarmed, and that the number killed by police isn’t going down the way police fatalities are. Basically a citizen is about 10 times more likely to be killed by the police than the police are to be killed by the citizen.
2) The anti-cop movement is largely peaceful. Again, false. The movement, rather, is akin to the Batman villain Two-Face. Anyone who watched the protests on television would know that the daytime ones were lawful free speech. But the dynamic changed dramatically at night. Protests became intentional riots, designed to draw a police response that allowed rioters to claim victim status.Id.
I don’t disagree with him here, although I will point out that some of the nighttime problems are caused by white supremacist groups, like the Proud Boys and the Boogaloos. These are people trying to increase tensions, not decrease them. That’s according to information from the FBI and DHS. And anyone rioting, destroying property, or hurting people (including police) needs to be arrested and tried for their crimes.
3) Abolishing police wouldn’t lead to lawlessness. Many of the defunders are genuine anarchists, who want no government at all and believe in a society of angels who serve each other voluntarily.Id.
This is nonsense. One of the greatest achievements in human history was creating government monopolies on the use of force. Ancient tribal societies had a violent death rate of 500 per 100,000 people per year. That number dropped to 50 in medieval societies and just one to five in the modern West.
Sure, some of the calls for defunding the police are from anarchists. Many more of the calls is not to eliminate the police, but to reform and restructure it. Police should not be sent on mental health calls, they are not trained in counseling, nor, for the most part, do they have the temperament. No, what we should be looking at is adding social workers and mental health specialists to handle those types of calls.
The second part of the equation here is the problem created with the first rule of law enforcement. Young, like most cops, believe that police officers have a right to go home at the end of his shift. But if you ask him about the right of the citizens to go home at the end of the day, you will likely get a blank look. It just simply never crosses their mind that citizens should have the same right that they do to go home.
4) Today’s police are “militarized.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. As a soldier, I rode in an armored vehicle and sat in a turret with a belt-fed machine gun. My job was to shoot enemy soldiers. In my 26 years as a cop, I have done no such thing.Id.
Contrary to activist complaints, SWAT teams’ armored vehicles, armored clothing and special training help them avoid deadly force, not commit it. A regular cop is often justified shooting someone who threateningly brandishes a gun. A SWAT officer wearing protection, however, will wait longer before resorting to deadly force. In Seattle, our SWAT team recently saved a suicidal young black man with a gun.
Police today are militarized. When I started, an officer carried a revolver, usually in .38 or .357 with two, maybe three reloads. Almost no officers carried a rifle, much less a mil-spec carbine with a 30-round magazine and a minimum of 3 to 4 reloads. Armored cars were for the big cities, of a million or more people. SWAT was rarely used, because it was designed to deal with heavily armed and dangerous subjects, and no-knock warrants were rare.
Now SWAT raids are routine, and used when not needed, such as to arrest a young man for an assault warrant–less than four hours after the young man had been in court, while the warrant was active. In Dallas, SWAT raided a VFW hall for an illegal poker game. Is this something that detectives and patrol couldn’t handle? We were taught to deescalate and wait someone out, for days if needed. Now you roll up in an armored vehicle and breach. One small town sent an armored car and a couple dozen deputies to collect a civil judgement from a 70-something year old man.
I understand where Young is coming from. Hell, I used to be there myself. But that doesn’t make his position right.