We have heard a lot lately about tensions between the police and the communities that they serve, and the urgent need to reduce them. Here’s an easy first step: Stop lying about the cops.
The “national conversation” about race and policing we’ve been having ever since Michael Brown was shot by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., last summer has been based on lies. The lie that Officer Wilson shot Brown while he had his hands up and was pleading “Don’t shoot.” The lie that New York City policemen targeted Eric Garner for a violent arrest because he was black. The lie, peddled especially by the progressive prince of New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio, that the police are racist.
These are the lies that fuel hatred for the police, because if the police routinely execute black men in cold blood and serve a thoroughly racist system, they deserve to be hated. They should be the subject of nightly protests. They should be showered with obloquy. They should be harried by Attorney General Eric Holder. They should be considered a stain on the national conscience to be extricated at all costs.
This is the line of reasoning that leads to protesters chanting: “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now.”
His rote praise of the police notwithstanding, especially now that he is under so much political pressure after the murders of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, Mayor de Blasio is deeply invested in this smear. It is why he has made career anti-police agitator Al Sharpton practically deputy police commissioner. It is why he considers the police a clear and present danger to his biracial son, Dante. It is why he said the tragic death of Eric Garner in police custody was the product of “centuries of racism.”
The logic of the de Blasio view tends toward the conclusion that the police are unbelievably insidious: They recruit people of all races to go into dangerous neighborhoods on the pretense of protecting innocent people there, when in reality the mission is to harass black kids and, should the opportunity arise, kill them. If this were true, it would make the police as a class not just racists, but sociopaths.
It fails the basic standard of common sense, and defies the numbers. As Heather Mac Donald of City Journal writes: “Criminologists have spent decades trying to prove that the overrepresentation of blacks and Hispanics in prison demonstrates that the criminal justice system is racist. And each time they fail. Even the most left-wing academics have been forced to admit that crime, not race, determines criminal justice outcomes.”
Police go where the crime is, and at considerable risk to themselves. Surely, if their own comfort and safety were all that mattered to them, they would spend all their time patrolling the poshest neighborhoods in America.
Police critics have taken Ferguson and Garner and have woven them into a narrative of reckless disregard for the lives of blacks. After the grand jury declined to indict in the Garner case, de Blasio referred to a “profound” crisis. The numbers suggest the opposite: As crime has declined — thanks, in part, to rigorous policing — police interactions with the public have declined and have involved fewer instances of the use of force.
Our national conversation has been a national fever. Now, perhaps it will break. As Jaden Ramos, the 13-year-old son of Rafael Ramos, wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook post about his dad, “Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help.” There is more wisdom in that simple statement than in most of the cable chatter, protest chants, and op-eds written in the wake of Ferguson and the Garner case.
If we really want to reduce tensions between the community and men like Officer Rafael Ramos, it is imperative, first, to stop lying about the police.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2014 King Features Syndicate