Virgil: Five Points About the Politics of Police Work in America Today

Virgil-Cops-graduation-AP
AP, BNN Edit

Third in a series…

In Part One of this series, we considered the changing politics of the blue-collar suburb of Macomb County, Michigan, just outside of Detroit.  In Part Two, we noted that the Thin Blue Line—that is, our nation’s police forces—is mostly blue collar, both by background, and by current salary income.

Now, let’s take a look at the politics of policing in 2017.  Yes, let’s consider these men and women, these “New Centurions,” as they engage in a real-time sacrament of service and sacrifice.  So the five points to make:

1. Policing is dangerous;
2. The mainstream media, and the popular culture, don’t like cops;
3. The Democratic Party, too, is increasingly anti-cop;
4. The American people, on the other hand, support the police;
5. This gap between the elites and the people is an opportunity for Republicans.

Let’s look at each of these points in turn:

First, policing is dangerous.  As we remember, there have been many cold-blooded multiple-cop-assassinations in recent years: two killed in New York City in 2014, two more in Iowa in 2016, and then, that same year, three dead in Baton Rouge, and five slain in Dallas.

Indeed, in 2016, a total of 145 cops died in the line of duty; of these, 63 were killed by gunfire, another 17 died from other kinds of assault.

Moreover, this year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, deaths among federal, state, and local police have risen 30 percent.

Second, the MSM, and the popular culture, are anti-cop.  Here’s a typical CNN headline, from June  23: “Racial bias permeates law enforcement.”  (Virgil could pile on more such headlines, but what’s the point?  We all have been witness to this relentless anti-cop animus.)

We can step back and add that there’s a reason why the likes of Michael Brown, or of Freddie Gray, have become well known after their deaths.  They were the guilty victims of police action, and yet the MSM has had a way of turning them into heroes of a kind, or at least martyr-like household names.  By contrast, slain police officers are consigned to obscurity.  That’s media bias at work.

And the popular culture, is, of course, even worse.  We might consider, for example, the case of the rapper Ice Cube, who first came to prominence back in 1988 with his song, “F__ tha Police.”  Today, some three decades later, he’s still trashing the police, still idolized by the pop culture, and still making money.

We might further note that these anti-police attitudes have extended beyond journalism and “art” into the lofty precincts of the law itself.  Just last month, we learned that courts in Washington state “have developed a novel method to try and root out trustworthy feelings associated with police officers.”  That method is the production of a video, courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union, aimed at teaching juries not to trust the police.  Fortunately, in one instance, a presiding judge in a case involving a police-related killing ruled against showing the video to potential jurors; the judge declared that the video was “simply too prejudicial.”  Needless to say, this legal setback notwithstanding, the ACLU will never give up on its tax-exempt mission of fomenting anti-police attitudes.

Third, Democrats are now the anti-police party.  Once upon a time, the Democrats, as the political home to Irish-Americans, were the natural hub of pro-police sentiment.  That is, if Officer O’Hara was Irish, and the Irish were Democrats, then the Democrats were naturally supportive of Officer O’Hara and all the other men of the Emerald Society.

Yet since then, Democrats have done a 180.  The 2016 Democratic Party platform, for example, includes four lines of vague praise for the police, followed by 13 lines of specific criticism, including a demand for sweeping new powers for the Justice Department to intervene in local incidents that might catch the eye of Al Sharpton & Co.: “We will require the Department of Justice to investigate all questionable or suspicious police-involved shootings.”  In other words, each incident would, literally, become a federal case.

Furthermore, how many times last year did we hear Hillary Clinton declare that she would force the police to undergo mandatory “implicit bias training”?

Yet even since their 2016 electoral debacle, the Democrats are still going at it.  Just this month, after a New York City cop, Miosotis Familia, a mother of three, was shot and killed by a paroled thug-lifer, Mayor Bill DeBlasio abandoned his grieving city for a foreign jaunt.  Why?  Because it was more important to him to protest Donald Trump at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.  DeBlasio thus snubbed the swearing-in ceremony for 524 new NYPD recruits.

Supporters of the NYPD at the funeral of slain New York City Police Officer Miosotis Familia (Associated Press)

In the words of an exasperated Ed Mullins, head of the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association,“We have a very anti-police atmosphere … where we are failing is in political leadership.” He later tweeted, “Whose side are you on Mr. Mayor??”  Of course, we all know the answer to that question.

The irony of the Democrats’ anti-police stance is that it’s Democratic constituencies that are suffering the most from the resulting crime spree.  Across the nation, the murder rate is increasing, especially in Democratic big cities; last year in Chicago, for example, there were 762 murders.  Elsewhere in 2016, murder spiked in San Antonio, up 61 percent; in Memphis, up 56 percent; in Louisville, up 44 percent.  Importantly, of the almost 16,000 murders in the U.S. in 2015, according to the FBI, 52 percent of the victims were black.

In the words of former Chicago police chief Garry McCarthy, anti-police groups such as Black Lives Matter are part of the problem:

A movement with the goal of saving black lives … is getting black lives taken, because 80 percent of our murder victims here in Chicago are male blacks.

And crime is worsening yet again in 2017: On July 1, 28 people were shot in a Little Rock, Arkansas, night club.  And over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, a total of 102 people were shot, 15 fatally.  Meanwhile, other places, too, are suffering greater carnage, from Prince George’s County, Maryland, to Albany, New York.  In all of these instances, African-Americans were the most victimized.

Fourth, despite the anti-cop media blitz, the country stands by the police.  According to Gallup, 57 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police—up five points in the last two years.  (We might note that the other highly rated professions are also typically drawn from the working  and middle classes, including nurses and pharmacists.)

We might also pause over the success of the CBS TV series, Blue Bloods, about an NYPD family.  Without a doubt, it must grind the teeth of CBS executives to let star Tom Selleck pay tribute to the police every Friday night, but out in the heartland, people are watching—the show is now in its eighth season.  Thus we see that for enough money, MSM-ers will put their personal ideology aside.

To be sure, not everyone admires the cops; at the high end of the income scale, there’s an aristocratic disdain for the blue, and at the low end, there’s outright hostility.  So it would be a challenge to stage a “Support Your Local Police” rally in either Beverly Hills or Brooklyn.  Furthermore, as we all know, through a strange kind of high-low alchemy, angry anti-cop groups find their popular muscle in the ‘hood, even as they find their financial support in haughtier zip codes.

In the meantime, in the middle, sandwiched between the high and the low, are the police.  Every day, we send them out into the mean streets; we ask them to risk their lives in situations that most Americans would probably consider to be impossible.

For instance, we might start with the basic vagary of many criminal situations; that is, information is often fragmentary, and yet the police must react and do their job, knowing that gunmen could be lying in wait.

And it’s not just bullets that the cops must fear; it’s also legal action, possibly based on some sort of allegation of racial discrimination.  Thus we can quickly see how cops can find themselves in a near-impossible situation.  In that vein, here’s a July 4 tweet from the D.C. Police Department:

We might note that “B/M’s” is an abbreviation of “black males.”  In other words, per this tweet, everyone—starting, of course, with the police—should be on the lookout for two black males; as the alert indicated, that’s all that there was to be known.

So now let’s ask: How could a police officer possibly do anything with that information that would not potentially put him or her in legal jeopardy?  Even in attempting to fulfill the cops’ responsibility to the public—by at least closely scrutinizing any pair of black males in the area—they could be doing great harm to their career.

They are thus put in a no-win situation: Good police work could mean checking up on black men in the area, with all the possible repercussions, while bad police work—not doing anything—leaves criminals roving free.

This is the sort of unsolvable puzzle that the cops have to put up with every single day.  And as we know, there is a huge posse of activists, litigators, and reporters eager to pounce on any incident where the cops can be said to have made a wrong judgment.

In such a hostile legal and media environment, it would be understandable if the cops chose to just sit in their squad cars and eat donuts.  And some do.  But most don’t.

In fact, the vast majority of police officers are doing their best, standing precariously on the ramparts of our civilization, even as the Sharpton/ACLU complex can’t wait to clobber them with their twisted version of the law.

Yet speaking of the use and abuse of the law, here’s something interesting: In the extreme cases where bullets are fired and blood is shed, prosecutors have found that they are having a hard time securing convictions against cops.

We might consider some recent cases in which juries have rejected prosecution claims.  On June 23, a judge ordered a mistrial in the case of a former University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tensing, in the 2015 shooting of a black motorist, Sam DuBose.  After 31 hours of deliberations, the jury could not reach a verdict—this was actually the second mistrial in the case.

Two days earlier, on June 21, a Milwaukee jury acquitted former police officer Dominique Heaggen-Brown in the 2016 shooting of Sylville Smith.  National Review’s David French summarized a terrible situation that is all too typical:

Smith ran from a traffic stop, approached a chain-link fence, and turned to face the pursuing officers, gun in hand.  Heaggan-Brown fired his first shot — a shot the prosecution conceded was lawful—and then fired the second, fatal shot less than two seconds later, just after Smith had thrown away his pistol. The prosecution claimed that the second shot constituted reckless homicide.

In other words, this was a tough situation: Every cop knows that a wounded suspect can be plenty dangerous—and might have more than one gun.  French added:

We can’t impute god-like perception to police officers, and the split-second reasonable decision to fire on an armed suspect isn’t something that has to be reconsidered with every pull of the trigger … the jury reached the just result.  [emphasis added]

Five days earlier than that, on June 16, another jury acquitted St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile.  And in May, Tulsa police officer Betty Jo Shelby was acquitted in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher.  Also in May, federal prosecutors announced that they would be filing no charges against Baton Rouge police officers Howie Lake and Blane Salamoni in the shooting death of Alton Sterling.

Perhaps even better known than any of these cases was the politically inspired effort by Baltimore prosecutors to target six Baltimore police officers in the accidental 2015 death of Freddie Gray.  (We might note that even at the tender age of 25, Gray had already had 20 brushes with the law and had spent two years in jail.)  Nevertheless, the prosecutors went after those BPD officers, three of whom were themselves black.  All six prosecutions failed.

We might note that it’s hardly the case that cops are never convicted of abuse; since 2005, 82 U.S. law enforcement officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter for on-duty shootings.  Of these, 29 were convicted, five of them for murder.

Still, the the pattern is clear: Unlike the trifecta of the MSM, the popular culture, and the Democratic Party, ordinary folks—the kind of people who end up on juries—are disinclined to convict cops.

Fifth, because of this gap between the elites and the populace, Republicans have a big opportunity.  For half a century, Republicans have been the mostly “law and order” party, and that righteous stance has won them many elections.

And yet in the last decade or two, a new strain has come into Republican thinking—libertarianism on crime and policing.  Notably, the hydra-headed Koch Brothers operation has formed an alliance with the ACLU and other left-wing outfits on behalf of “criminal justice reform.”  And at the same time, of course, the Kochs and other libertarians have been working to accelerate immigration into the U.S., legal and illegal.

Such efforts have given some on the libertarian end of the Republican Party a distinctly anti-police caste of mind.  For example, in 2014, in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Sen. Rand Paul chose to criticize the supposed “militarization” of the police.  That is, the cops were monitoring angry protests with armor and heavy weapons, and this was somehow a bad thing—a manifestation, maybe, of blue-uniformed authoritarianism.

This anti-cop critique, of course, is a familiar libertarian talking point.  Indeed it’s one of many areas where the thinking of libertarians and liberals converges, and so that’s why, in 2014, Paul was bannered on the cover of Time magazine as “The most interesting man in politics.”

Of course, all this liberal-libertarian admiration didn’t do Paul much good in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, where his candidacy fizzled quickly.  Why this flameout?  Perhaps because most Americans, and the overwhelming number of Republicans, are quickly seeing that “demilitarization” of the police is a code-word for an anti-police stance.  That is, if the bad guys have high-powered weapons, the cops don’t stand a chance; so they, too, must be armored up.

If Republicans wish to improve their relationship with the police, and all that the Thin Blue Line stands for, they could start by unabashedly supporting the cops, and their safety.  And that’s actually a win-win, for the cops and the citizenry, because if the police are secure, it’s more likely that they can help keep the rest of us secure as well.

Interestingly, libertarian Republican politicians have a way of coming to this realization, eventually; after all, if the bad guys have heavy weapons, then Members of Congress, too, don’t stand a chance.

A case in point is the shooting last month in Alexandria, Virginia, in which a left-wing lunatic started shooting at Republican lawmakers as they practiced for a charity baseball game, wounding several.  It was only the presence of two well-armed police officers that saved the GOPers; as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre would say, The good guys shot the bad guy.

Indeed, in the wake of that shooting, Paul himself was sounding a much different tune:

Without Capitol Hill police, it would have been a massacre—we had no defense, we had no defense at all.  We were like sitting ducks.

Since then, Congressional Republicans have realize that their instinctive desire to cut government budgets ought not to apply to the police that save their lives; the Hill GOP has quickly moved to increase the funding of the Capitol Police.

So we can quickly see: What’s good for Members of Congress ought to be good for the rest of us, too.  The proper strategy for the GOP is to find other budgets to cut—not the cops’.

So as a matter of strategy, let’s resolve that Republicans will always be known as the party of law and order, up and down the line—putting their money where their mouth is.

And this “Centurion Strategy” can also be applied to the consequences for shooting victims—on both sides of the law.  For instance, in the wake of the 2014 Ferguson shooting that left Michael Brown dead after he attacked a cop, Darren Wilson, the reaction of the authorities was revealing in its political correctness: Wilson was put on trial, although he was acquitted; he subsequently left the Ferguson police department.  And in the meantime, Michael Brown’s parents got a $1.5 million settlement.

So let’s summarize this outrageous situation: Wilson does the right thing and gets tried in court, and then, even though he was acquitted, is pushed out of his job.  Brown does the wrong thing, and his family gets rich.

So shouldn’t this sort of PC idiocy be a juicy campaign issue for Republicans?  GOPers might ask, loudly, where’s the justice here?  How much money do the families of slain cops get?  And why are we giving the families of nogoodniks so much as a single penny?

In the meantime, the trend of unfairness to the cops is continuing: Just recently, Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota officer who shot Philando Castile and was acquitted of doing anything wrong, has nevertheless left the St. Anthony department.

Once again, if the GOP truly wants to be the law-and-order party, it must have the cops’ back, period.

Interestingly, the GOP is already moving in this direction—and it’s paying off.  For example, in Louisiana, police chief Clay Higgins, the “Cajun John Wayne,” went from creating Gen. Patton-esque videos about law enforcement in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, to the U.S. Congress, where he keeps up the good fight.  No doubt many other aspiring political leaders will seek to follow Higgins’ no-nonsense path.

It must be said, of course, that it would be good for the country if the Democrats, too, were to seek out the law-and-order mantle.  Such a role is, after all, in their political heritage—the ghost of Officer O’Hara would be pleased.

Yet here’s not much evidence that the Democrats are thinking this way—just the opposite, in fact—and so that should encourage the GOP to double down on its winning strategy.  After all, it could give Republicans an opening in crime-afflicted minority areas where the familiar GOP message of tax- and budget-cuts doesn’t play well at all.

So there it is: The Centurion Strategy.  It’s a winning strategy for Republicans, sure, but even more, it’s a winning strategy for America.

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