- - Monday, July 18, 2016


Human passions are easily stirred by considerations of race, and such emotions can lead to very different places. The moving spectacle of Dallas leadership trying to soothe the racial anger that triggered the killing of five white police officers stands in contrast to the proceedings in Baltimore, where city officials are determined to make cops, black and white, pay for the death of Freddie Gray. Dallas and Baltimore comprised a tale of two suffering cities, until Baton Rouge made it three.

The tone of grief and outrage is set at the top, and Barack Obama has often made bad things worse, and his admonition in the wake of the killing of three policemen, one black and two white, in Baton Rouge on Sunday was welcome, but the words rang hollow. The president urged Americans to “temper our words and open our hearts … We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric. We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda.”

In Baltimore, Police Lt. Brian Rice, the highest ranking of six officers charged in the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray, was found not guilty on Monday of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. Prosecutors argued that Lt. Rice’s failure to make sure that Freddie Gray was secured by a seat belt after he was put in a police van led to his death from neck injuries.

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby transformed a search for justice to a campaign against the city’s police force. When rioters attacked police following Mr. Gray’s death last year, she told “the youth of the city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment.” Encouraging street violence targeting cops as a legitimate form of civil protest goes athwart her responsibility to uphold the law. Conviction of a crime requires proof of guilt, and the presiding judge, who is black, has found none guilty among the four officers of both races who have been put on trial so far.

Following the riots that shook Baltimore in the wake of Mr. Gray’s death, the city counted 344 murders in 2015, according to the Baltimore Sun, and this was a 63 percent jump over 2014. Another 157 persons have been slain so far this year. The street violence that devastated Baltimore and earlier Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown in 2014, led to the Black Lives Matter movement, and similar violence now threatens the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Thuggery rushes in when police presence is diminished in a foolish attempt to prevent a Freddie Gray or Michael Brown moment. “When cops back off, criminals become emboldened,” says Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.” The FBI reports that in 2015 murder rose 6.2 percent nationwide and 17 percent in the 50 largest cities, reversing two decades of declining violent crime.

In this emotionally charged season of choosing new political leadership, black and white must offer each other their hands, not their fists. The alternative is madness.

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