Narratives of oppression are simple; life is complicated. After the Internet lit up over video of a South Carolina police officer dragging a high-school student from her desk, tossing her to the ground, and handcuffing her, the Left instinctively began making its “larger points” about the “school-to-prison pipeline,” police brutality, and institutional racism.
It was the launching pad for another “national conversation” on the Left’s terms, about one of the Left’s favorite topics: the big, bad, racist police.
Yet videos from other schools show more complex realities. Campus teachers, administrators, and police officers often do face the real threat of violence — and waiting to intervene until after a fight breaks out can be terribly dangerous.
Consider the incident, this week in Sacramento, where a student slammed a school principal to the ground in a lunchroom brawl:
In a piece earlier this week, I noted that police officers in schools aren’t symbols of an oppressive state but rather symptoms of a “cultural disease — a crisis of morality and responsibility.” In other words, cops are in schools because we need them in schools, and videos like the three above show us why.
There are very good reasons why prosecutors and juries have generally shown deference to the snap judgments of police officers. Officers have the experience to understand the consequences of failing to keep the peace, they have mere seconds to make crucial decisions, and it is plainly difficult — if not impossible — to use force in any way that looks gentle or respectful. That doesn’t mean cops are always right — no group of human beings is infallible — nor does it mean that we shouldn’t film police encounters. But it does mean that Monday-morning quarterbacking should be done with a great deal of care and humility.
#share#When FBI director James Comey warned that viral videos were causing a “chill wind” to blow through American law enforcement, he wasn’t asking that police evade accountability for lawless behavior. He was saying that he understood the political and cultural opposition today’s cops face, judged by hostile observers who are ignorant of the realities of policing and all too eager to collect their scalps. Comey’s warnings are ominous:
I spoke to officers privately in one big-city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile-phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars. They told me, “We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.”
I’ve been told about a senior police leader who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video.
The increasing resistance officers face on the ground is accompanied by decreasing support from their political masters — “leaders” who are happy to toss law enforcement under the bus if it appeases the grievance industry.
This will not end well. If police are neutered in America’s worst neighborhoods and schools, it will be America’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens who suffer, not our cultural aristocrats. Already, angry young kids are learning the worst possible lesson — that they can defy lawful authority and still emerge as heroes. Yet physical resistance is a recipe for more pain, more violence, and more viral videos.
But perhaps that’s the point. Each confrontation drives the narrative, and the narrative both drives the national conversation and builds lucrative careers for grievance-mongers. It guarantees that any possible solutions are lost in an endless search for conflict. And when one spoils for a fight, a fight is never hard to find.
— David French is an attorney and a staff writer at National Review.