The radical new demand from the left to “defund the police” could become a moot point, given the increasing difficulty police departments are having in recruiting and retaining officers. Just within the past few days, at least seven police officers in Minneapolis have resigned – and several more are reportedly on their way out.
At some point, the question becomes: Why would anyone sign on for a job more dangerous than being a soldier – by some estimations – when one is guaranteed to be hated for merely wearing the uniform?
In the weeks since the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of a rogue police officer now facing murder charges in Minneapolis, the country has been riven by both peaceful and violent demonstrations. Amid the protests and anarchy, a clear narrative emerged about the police. This clarion call to arms says that officers of the law – of all ethnicities throughout the nation – operate within a racist system that subjugates black Americans. Although there is hard data to suggest otherwise, such bullhorn messaging from much of the mainstream media fanned the flames of outrage. It tacitly ratified the many attacks on cops nationwide.
There is undoubtedly racism in policing – as there is in virtually every other profession. But none of these jobs have written into the contract the authorization to take another human being’s life, if necessary. We have to do better about screening for racist animus in potential police officers, and we have to allow for the likelihood that most police officers of all ethnicities are not animated by racism in the dispatch of their duties. Without these measures, there will inevitably be further terrible instances like George Floyd’s murder, as well as the ancillary dramatic decrease in law enforcement applications.
Who Wants to Be a Cop?
According to a 2019 survey of 400 law enforcement agencies, conducted by PERF (Police Executive Research Forum), 66% of police departments nationwide saw declining applications – which are sure to plummet further in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. And keeping new cops on the job is equally challenging. In the same PERF survey, 29% of newly minted police officers left the job voluntarily within a year, while another 40% departed within five years. Even the FBI saw a dearth of new applicants, prior to sinking significant funding into recruitment.
Interest in becoming a cop cratered following Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. With all the discretion of a flamethrower, the mainstream media irresponsibly reported the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” falsehood that even then-Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice debunked as myth and admitted was a fabrication. But the lie was enough to inspire Micah Xavier, who killed five Dallas cops some two years later in a racially motivated attack.
Why would anyone sign on for a job more dangerous than being a soldier – by some estimations – when one is guaranteed to be hated for merely wearing the uniform?
And the same fabrication about Michael Brown continues to this day, as activists and other anarchists continue to paint the incendiary slogan on boarded-up businesses during the George Floyd demonstrations. Distinguishing between the unjustified killing of George Floyd and that of Michael Brown, who attempted to wrestle a police officer’s gun away from him, is a necessity if we are to tackle these issues honestly.
Violence Against the Police
Since Floyd’s sickening death, 12 police officers have been attacked by the lawless. The sister of Patrick Underwood, a black DHS officer shot and killed during the protests, testified in front of Congress that the idea of defunding the police was “ridiculous.” In St. Louis, retired black police officer David Dorn’s murder was live-streamed on Facebook while he helped a friend defend his pawnshop from looters. Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller was ambushed and killed by a suspect who used an assault rifle and explosives.
Officer Shay Mikalonis was shot in the head in Las Vegas and will likely be on a ventilator for the rest of his life. Four unnamed St. Louis officers and two unnamed New York City officers have been shot, and one was stabbed in the neck. All are expected to recover. Two cops in Virginia were shot – but not killed – during an exchange of gunfire with rioters. A burglary suspect apprehended in South Carolina will also be charged with the attempted murder of an NYPD officer, who he hit with a vehicle. The officer is in intensive care.
Reforms are surely needed, though. As a black American, Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) has been pulled over multiple times while driving, so he knows whereof he speaks. He is now heading the Republican effort to establish necessary changes, including a ban on chokeholds, training in de-escalation strategies, and increased funding for body cameras. Scott is in talks with the White House and believes the president will be responsive to new reforms, stating optimistically that there is “some synergy” there.
Meanwhile, in the reflexive rush to signal virtue and hold the correct opinion, anti-police actions are everywhere. A recent poll indicated that 55% of Democrats support defunding the police. Two police-themed TV shows were canceled, and outrage about a Pre-K cartoon show called Paw Patrol featuring a heroic dog cop became a media fixation for a minute.
It is undoubtedly a time for Americans who have had no reason to fear the police to attempt to understand the experiences and many indignities suffered by black Americans and other ethnic groups at the hands of law enforcement throughout the decades. This widening of our aperture will help establish common ground for reforms while upholding the rights of all groups.
When corporations including the NFL and Amazon are openly supporting Black Lives Matter’s platform to defund the police, they are engaging in what is being called “performative allyship” – a kind of “look what a good and virtuous organization we are” claim – but one that lacks real solutions.
When those who serve see Elmo’s dad lecture him about systemic racism in policing, and a cartoon cop dog is censored, lest your children grow up trusting the men in women in blue, looking for another line of work could seem like a good option.
Read more from Pennel Bird.