- - Wednesday, May 25, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

THE WAR ON COPS: HOW THE NEW ATTACK ON LAW AND ORDER MAKES EVERYONE LESS SAFE

By Heather Mac Donald

Encounter Books, $23.99, 245 pages

In “The War on Cops,” Heather Mac Donald provides overwhelming and compelling data to discount the misguided, misplaced and too often malice-based attacks on the law enforcement profession taking place in our country every day. The proven and effective tactic of focusing police efforts on analytically identified high crime areas has improved the quality of life for countless honest, law-abiding citizens living in challenged neighborhoods throughout this country. More importantly, proactive and targeted enforcement have saved countless lives, many of whom are from urban areas and minority communities.

These same communities have seen the positive impact that purposed policing can offer. They have also seen the damage from false messaging and rhetoric. The assault on law enforcement has brought with it a reduced quality of life for those who desperately deserve a chance, and increased crime and unacceptable homicide rates to these same communities. The degradation of these communities is a direct byproduct of the war on cops. De-policing — a phenomenon of police not engaging or refusing to take proactive enforcement actions based on crime patterns and data — has led to a dramatic increase in violent crime and lives lost all over this country. You need to look no further than Baltimore or Chicago to see the impact of de-policing, which is well documented within these pages.



The attacks on law enforcement, attacks based on false information or outright lies crafted to discredit an entire profession, are undeserved. As outlined in the data provided by Ms. Mac Donald, the police profession is the one aspect of government that has had a meaningful impact in many of the communities in need. Over the past several decades, program upon program, dollar upon dollar, have been “invested” in struggling communities trying to make them better. While most have failed, it is our police who have not. It is our police who have held the line for the people the programs have failed.

The outcry stemming from a small fraction of citizen interactions with law enforcement has brought gratuitous scrutiny of the profession. Policing, by its very nature, is in the public eye. For this reason, the profession is easily criticized. What should be criticized is the breakdown in the legislative and judicial systems. To decriminalize offenses and not hold accountable people who terrorize law-abiding citizens and destroy neighborhoods is an embarrassment. Blaming the police for the failures in the lives of individuals leading to police interactions is not only illogical, but flat-out ludicrous.

Policing has reduced violence and crime and restored neighborhoods. Focused efforts have proven effective in the most trouble-plagued minority neighborhoods. Huge sums of money have been spent by governments in failed efforts or underperforming programs. Much of this money has created a dependency on government in the most crime-ridden and depressed neighborhoods. This dependency has failed our citizens and stymied real progress on the part of the communities now so reliant on government support.

To be sure, discrimination is alive and well in 2016. We should all have dire concerns about the treatment of an entire demographic based on the unacceptable actions of a few individuals or based on a false narrative meant to inflict damage on a specific group. This stereotyping produces the same vilification of an entire segment of our society based on broad generalities and, much too often, incorrect information or outright lies that led to the unacceptable and immoral treatment of minorities so many years ago. You know it when you see it or hear it, and we all know it is simply and clearly wrong. Grouping an entire demographic into one generalized statement based on the misdeeds of a very few, or even worse, condemning an entire demographic based on a false narrative, is simply wrong. The modern demographic I am referring to is our men and women in blue across this country. One example, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” — never happened and is simply and clearly a lie that has become a rallying call all the same from those who wish to demonize law enforcement.

Also to be sure, we still have a long way to go in order to live up to the words in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal.” Although we are not perfect, it is detrimental to the progress made toward equality, and the memory of so many who helped lead civil rights reforms to allow those who truly only seek to divide our society to promote their agenda of separation and hate. It is not the actions of the police, but rather others who have or hope to make a name for themselves through divisive and often inaccurate assertions that create the divide.

I would hope that so many of those leading the war on cops would take the time to take an honest look at the work, the facts and the data, compiled by Heather Mac Donald in “The War on Cops” and rethink their unfair condemnation of our men and women in blue. Sadly, I know that reading this book takes more effort than reading a biased headline, false social media post or viewing a misrepresenting five-second video recording of a police encounter, but it is a read that is well worth the time.

Jeffrey R. Gahler is sheriff of Harford County, Md.

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