Thanksgiving is a time to gather family and friends, to share a feast of traditional food items and to reflect on the things we are thankful for.
This year we should all be particularly thankful for the men and women who dedicate their lives to law enforcement. At a time when certain parts of society seem to be coming apart at the seams, it is the boys in blue (and the girls too of course) that put their own safety second in an effort to protect the rest of us.
Sadly this has become much more difficult for the modern-day brave warriors in the last couple of years. According to data released recently by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a total of 264 officers died in the line of duty in 2020. That is nearly double the number of duty deaths from 2019. 2020 was the deadliest year for law enforcement since 1974.
Some politicians are attacking police as the bad guys. Some major U.S. cities are cutting funding and cries of “Defund the Police” can still be heard in various corners of America. When gunfire breaks out, the normal thing for any human being to do is run away. Law officers do just the opposite. They run toward the danger to fulfill their sworn duty to protect and serve. Why anyone would want to give them less support, less money and fewer resources to achieve this admirable task are beyond any stretch of logic.
The result of vilifying hard-working men and women and cutting their funding and resources has been swift and clear. The number of homicides in 29 American metropolitan areas has gone up through September of this year, compared to last year, according to the Council on Criminal Justice. To make matters worse this year’s increase comes after murders were already up almost 30% in America in 2020. We are clearly headed in the wrong direction.
Washington DC, for example, had its 200th homicide of the year earlier this week. That is the highest number since 2003 and we still have six weeks left on the calendar. On the same day, Philadelphia suffered killing number 497, 13% higher than this time last year.
All of this takes a heavy toll on those who wear the badge. As cities provide less support, both in word and in the purse, many officers are walking away. Washington DC is a prime example. The city council has been particularly harsh on law enforcement and as a result, has 200 fewer officers this year than last. According to the police union, more than half of the 417 cops who have called it quits did so before they were eligible for retirement.
Some will point to Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd, refusing to move as Floyd slowly gasped and breathed his last, and say America needs something different than its traditional policing structure. Such an approach ignores the fact that Chauvin was arrested four days later, put on trial and convicted of murder. Floyd’s death was a terrible thing, but justice prevailed.
Few dispute that Chauvin was a bad apple, but there are literally thousands of examples of other officers doing great works to help people and to save men, women and children in distress, often putting themselves at risk in the process. The notion that we should criticize police as a group, strip them of funding and compromise our cities’ safety because of a few bad apples is preposterous.
Hard facts in the form of statistical evidence gathered over the last fifty years show one clear and consistent result. If you let law enforcement do its job and follow up with swift and firm penalties for criminals, society as a whole is remarkably safer.
A report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed that of 405,000 prisoners released in 30 states in one calendar year, 77% were arrested again within five years. The results of this report have been supported by study after study. The point is a disproportionate percentage of crime is committed by a small, defined portion of our population.
This is a universal human truth and is not limited to the United States. A Swedish study showed 1% of the population accounted for 63% of all violent crime convictions over 30 years. Lock up that sliver of society and nearly two out of three violent crimes literally would not occur.
Another study, this one by academics at Birmingham University in the UK looked at crime in England and Wales over the fifteen-year stretch from 1993 to 2008. The researchers concluded clearly and succinctly that prison was particularly effective in reducing property crime when targeted at serious and repeat offenders.
The UK joined the United States in increasing criminal penalties for many crimes over a three-decade period. On both sides of the Atlantic, statistics show that crime steadily decreased during that same time period. Study after study after study, in America and around the globe, show a clear statistical correlation between longer prison sentences and decreased crime. The Levitt study, done in the United States, demonstrates that incarceration can account for a drop in crime of about one-third. An older study, done by Donohue and Siegelman looked specifically at prison expansion and longer jail sentences and found a resulting drop in crime of between 10% and 27%, depending on the specific crime.
The bottom line is that society has some bad apples. When law enforcement is supported, recognized and allowed to do their job tracking and arresting these bad guys, and the courts do their part in taking those same trouble makers off the street for an extended period of time, society benefits.
When California announces you can shoplift more than $900 at a time and not risk arrest, chaos erupts. When Colorado opts to drop the term “Sex Offender” because it has a negative impact on sex offenders, one wonders who is watching out for the victims. When the Biden administration gives a directive to law enforcement on the U.S. border not to enforce federal law, society suffers on multiple levels. None of these problems are caused by cops.
In an artist’s color spectrum there are what is known as primary colors. Red, yellow and blue are the basis for all other colors. You can look at fuchsia or mauve and think they are beautiful, but they are derivative of primary colors. Without red, yellow and blue, the entire color spectrum collapses.
The same is true of society. There are two primary groups, good guys and bad guys. You can worry about what happens to that sex offender or about the penalty the fentanyl distributor gets after being caught, but their behavior clearly falls in one category. Bad guys. Without a clear line between good guys and bad guys, society collapses.
Make no mistake about the men and women who dedicate their lives to law enforcement. They are the good guys. As you carve that turkey and pour gravy on your mashed potatoes this year, please take the time to consciously consider that you are thankful for their willingness to serve and protect.
• Tim Constantine is a columnist for The Washington Times and hosts “The Capitol Hill Show” podcast every week from Washington, D.C.