Tag: Black Lives Matter

There is No War on Cops

Over the last few weeks, we have been subject to a constant stream of stories about the War on Cops. According to these stories, a combination of anti-cop rhetoric, rising violence, disrespect for law enforcement and cultural decay is resulting in cops being gunned down all over the country.

There’s a problem with this narrative, however: it’s not true:

So far, 2015 is on pace to see 35 felonious killings of police officers. If that pace holds, this year would end with the second lowest number of murdered cops in decades. Here’s a graph depicting annual killings of cops with firearms from Mark A. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute:


That’s raw numbers. It doesn’t account for the huge increase in the number of cops out there. If you look at the rate of killings, 2015 will be one of the safest year for cops … ever. The only year that was safer was … 2013. Thanks to this plunge in anti-police violence, law enforcement is no longer one of the most dangerous jobs in America (although police still have a very high rate of suicide).

With the murder of police officers having dropped to thankfully low levels, however, even small changes can appear proportionately large. If ten more cops are killed in one year than the last, the media talks about how cop killings are up 25%. But then they fall eerily silent when killing drop 25% the next year. In fact, as Jesse Walker points out, the media have dragged out the War on Cops every time the numbers have spiked up:

For years now, any cluster of violent attacks on police officers—or even a single attack, if it seems particularly cold-blooded or gruesome—is prone to prompt people to warn that a war on cops is underway. Then the cluster passes and the fear subsides until the next spike begins, at which point, like a hive of amnesiacs, the media start trumpeting a war on cops once more. Yet if you peer past the inevitable year-to-year zig-zags in the numbers and look at the long-term trends, police in the U.S. have been less and less likely to be either killed or assaulted on the job.

So why does this matter? The murder of police officers is awful. Why should we care about whether or not there is a War on Cops? Shouldn’t we be concentrating on reducing the numbers of officers killed, regardless of whether the war exists or not?

Well, there are two reasons this is important. First of all, moral panics bring with them changes in laws and prosecutions. The panic over non-existent satanic cults put innocent people in prison for decades. The moral panic over terrorism, an all too real danger, has given our government the power to track our phones, hack our computers and assassinate us without trial. The current moral panic over sex-trafficking is empowering the government to jail consenting adults and shutdown websites that protect sex workers from violence. And the moral panic over all this stuff is what drives civil liberties violations like warrantless wiretaps and asset forfeiture.

Second, we’ve been here before.

In 1963, JFK was assassinated. Before JFK’s body was cold and continuing into the present day, various pundits have tried to blame his murder on “right wing rhetoric” (which apparently motivated his killing by … a devout Communist).

In 1995, a terrorist blew up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, murdering 168 people. Before the smoke had cleared, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich were being blamed for their “extreme anti-government rhetoric”.

In 2009, census worker Bill Sparkman committed suicide and tried to stage it as a murder. Before the investigation even began, his death was being blamed on extreme anti-government rhetoric.

In 2011, a nut tried to murder Gabby Giffords and did murder six people, including nine-year-old Christina Green. Before the bodies were cold, it was being blamed on right wing rhetoric. Attention particularly focused on an electoral map produced by Sarah Palin’s PAC, which had a crosshair on Giffords’ district. In the end, it had nothing to do with the murders.

Did the Left really think that these tragedies had anything to do with rhetoric? Some, probably, but even lefties aren’t that stupid. The real reason they tried to blame these horrors on “rhetoric” was because they wanted to shut someone up. In all these cases, we were in the middle of intense debates about the size and scope of government, debates the Left was losing. Blaming horrifying tragedies on right-wing anti-government rhetoric was a way to delegitimize the opposition; to make it seem like being in favor of welfare reform meant you were also in favor of blowing up government buildings.

One of the threads of the supposed “War on Cops” has been blaming said war on “anti-cop rhetoric”. Since Ferguson, the country has been engaged in a growing and long-overdue debate about policing. We have 80,000 SWAT raids in the country every year. We’ve sent billions in military gear to every law enforcement division in the country, even to towns of a few thousand residents. We are on pace for over a thousand citizens to be killed by police this year. And people are starting to ask questions about whether all of this carnage is necessary.

The attempt to blame these killing on anti-cop rhetoric is an attempt to silence this debate1. It is, in particular, an effort to silence Black Lives Matter, which has been called a hate group by some and … stop me if you’re heard this before … been blamed for the murder of cops in the immediate aftermath before anything is known (only for it to later be revealed that the killing had nothing to do with BLM).

There have been some anti-cop elements at BLM rallies, no question. But using such assholes to tar the entire movement would be like … oh, I don’t know … taking a picture of some asshole with a racist sign at a Tea Party rally and claiming that represents the entire movement. The thing about BLM, however, is that unlike other Left Wing movements, they’ve put forward actual policy proposals. And as I’ve pointed out, these proposals are quite reasonable. You might disagree with some of them, but you’d be hard-pressed to label them as “anti-cop”.

But the police unions have gotten too used to being pandered to by politicians. The police unions have gotten so used to being immune from criticism, in fact, that their leader has no qualms about suggesting that people who videotape cops should be charged with felonies. In that environment, any criticism sounds like brutal anti-cop rhetoric.

I can’t blame cops for feeling that way. Your average cop doesn’t care about statistics or politics; he just doesn’t want to be killed on the job. But I do blame the politicians — including most of the Republican and Democratic presidential fields — for pandering to this. They’re supposed to look at this more objectively.

When the Left blamed Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for the Murrah Building being destroyed, I thought it was disgusting. It wasn’t just disgusting because they were trying to milk a tragedy to political advantage; it was disgusting because they were trying to delegitimize a point of view they disagreed with. I take the same attitude toward these feeble attempts to black Barack Obama, Black Lives Matter and anyone other than the shooters for recent cop killings. It’s disgusting not only because it milks a tragedy for politics but because it is a very blatant attempt to delegitimize an important and ongoing discussion about police tactics, police brutality and accountability.

This isn’t a partisan issue, incidentally, even though I’ve “defended” Obama on this. When it comes to police excesses, the Democrats are part of the problem, not part of the solution. It’s the Democrats who have massively expanded the power and scope of government, dramatically increasing the number of times citizens interact with law enforcement. It’s the Democrats who have sent cops out to round up loose cigarettes and make sure guitar makers aren’t using the wrong type of wood. Joe Biden, current Vice President and second in the polls for 2016, has been a huge supporter of the 1033 program and has repeatedly assured police that “Obama has your back”. The Democrats may make sympathetic noises toward Black Lives Matter. But when push comes to shove, they will put their money where it always is: on powerful and expanding government.

There is no War on Cops. During Prohibition, we had a war on cops. Gangsters were gunning down 150-200 cops a year. During the 1970’s, we had a war on cops, when thugs and extremists were killing 100-150 cops a year. But right now, policing is safer than it’s ever been.

That’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing. No level of cop killing is acceptable. But we should be relieved about the immense progress we’ve made, not finding ways to leverage it into yet more power and less accountability.

1. Well, partly. The other part is an effort to tie Obama to the killings with myths about how he doesn’t talk about cop murders, doesn’t call the widows of slain cops, doesn’t send representatives to cop funerals and engages in anti-cop rhetoric. All of these are untrue. Most can be disproven with simple Google search (example). Over the last few months, I’ve been asking people to give me specific anti-cop rhetoric Obama has “spewed”. The most I’ve gotten is that he expressed sympathy for Trayvon Martin’s family (who was, um, not killed by a cop). And he criticized the police in the Henry Louis Gates incident. And, uh, he’s met with Al Sharpton a bunch of times. The latter seems to a big deal to some but the idea that someone murdered a cop because Obama met with Al Sharpton seems as absurd to me as the idea that someone shot Gabby Giffords because Sarah Palin made a map. If you look at what Obama has actually said … with his own mouth … it has been overwhelmingly pro-police.

Monday Quick Hits

BLM Disses Dems; Makes Me Happy:

Last week, the Democratic Party expressed support for Black Lives Matter. Here is BLM’s heartening response:

A resolution signaling the Democratic National Committee’s endorsement that Black lives matter, in no way implies an endorsement of the DNC by the Black Lives Matter Network, nor was it done in consultation with us. We do not now, nor have we ever, endorsed or affiliated with the Democratic Party, or with any party. The Democratic Party, like the Republican and all political parties, have historically attempted to control or contain Black people’s efforts to liberate ourselves. True change requires real struggle, and that struggle will be in the streets and led by the people, not by a political party.

More specifically, the Black Lives Matter Network is clear that a resolution from the Democratic National Committee won’t bring the changes we seek. Resolutions without concrete change are just business as usual. Promises are not policies. We demand freedom for Black bodies, justice for Black lives, safety for Black communities, and rights for Black people. We demand action, not words, from those who purport to stand with us.

While the Black Lives Matter Network applauds political change towards making the world safer for Black life, our only endorsement goes to the protest movement we’ve built together with Black people nationwide — not the self-interested candidates, parties, or political machine seeking our vote.”

Again, I might take issue with some of the verbiage and emphasis. But they are forcing the Democratic Party to admit that they supported the militarization of police and the ramping up of criminal penalties. They are forcing the Democratic Party to face their long history of pandering to black votes while screwing black people. While we might disagree on policy, I applaud any movement that refuses to associate itself with a political party.

Speaking of Keynesianism:

Tyler Cowen reminds us that the growing sinkhole that is the Chinese economy was the subject of praise just a few years ago:

Remember back in 2009, and a bit thereafter (pdf), when so many people were praising China’s very activist, multi-trillion fiscal stimulus?

Yet some of us at the time insisted this would only push off and deepen China’s adjustment problems. There was already excess capacity and high debt and favored state-owned industries, and the stimulus was making all of those problems worse and only postponing a needed adjustment. The Chinese incipient contraction was based on structural problems, not a simple lack of aggregate demand.

How’s that debate going? While the final outcome remains uncertain, Austrian-like perspectives on China are looking pretty good these days.

Just as you go to war with the army you’ve got, so must a country conduct fiscal stimulus with the policy instruments it has. And most forms of Chinese fiscal stimulus make their imbalances worse rather than better. Yet dreams of fiscal stimulus as an answer to the macro problems on the table never die.

To the Keynesians — or, as I call them, the pseudoKeynesians — it is always time to spend money.

Was Segregation Made or Did it Just Happen?:

I’ve been sitting on this link for weeks but there’s not much I can add. It details how our inner city slums didn’t just happen. They were made and the men who made it were Democrats.

Hmm. I should pass that on the BLM folks.

Denali Denial

Obama officially reverted Mt. McKinley back to being named Denali. A few people are trying to whip up some outrage but I don’t see the point. Everyone in Alaska calls it Denali and Congress appears to have punted this kind of authority to the bureaucracy long ago.

BLM Proposes

Last week, I agreed with Hillary Clinton that if Black Lives Matter wanted to make a difference, they needed to propose actual laws and policies, not just “raise awareness”. This week, they’ve come out with a list of proposals and … it’s actually pretty reasonable. They propose things like better police training, an end to asset forfeiture and broken windows policing, independent investigation of police shootings, body cameras. There are a few things I would disagree with but, overall, this is pretty mainstream and in line with what many conservatives have been talking about, especially asset forfeiture reform and demilitarization.

Radley Balko notes that while these proposals are reasonable, they are likely to portrayed as radical by police unions who are used to having the media and politicians mindlessly parrot their spokesmen. But:

There is at least some reason to be more optimistic this time around. The main reason is that the problems in policing are starting to affect people who have the status and power to do something about them. One reason we’re starting to see conservative opposition to police militarization, for example, is that police militarization is starting to affect conservatives. We’re seeing regulatory agencies with armed police forces, some even with tactical teams. We’re seeing SWAT-like tactics used to enforce zoning laws and low-level crimes. We’re seeing heavy-handed force used to collect cigarette taxes or to enforce regulatory law.

Similarly, while how and when police use lethal force has a disproportionate effect on communities of color, there has been no shortage of stories about unarmed white people killed by police. There are problems in policing that are directly related to race, such as profiling, bias and an irrational fear of black criminality. But there are also problems in policing that affect people of all races, such as the use of lethal force, unnecessary escalation and the prioritizing of officer safety over all else. (Even these problems disproportionately affect black and brown people.)

Do we dare say that … all lives matter? A government that can launch an armed SWAT raid against Okra plants is a danger to everyone, black white or Dolezal.

In my original post, I said that the best way to address the problems in law enforcement is for government to “make itself less powerful, less intrusive, more accountable and more respectful of our basic civil liberties.” Black Lives Matter’s proposals do exactly that. Ultimately, we will have to address the massive size and scope of government. The less the law is involved in our lives, the less chance there is for that involvement to go wrong. But shaping reform around BLM’s proposals would be a great first step toward addressing the problems and building a better relationship between police and their communities.

Making Black Lives Really Matter

I can’t believe I’m going to say this but … ahem … is this thing on? … I agree with Hillary Clinton.

Last week, she met with members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Hillary has a lot to answer for. As First Lady and then as Senator she actively supported the harsh prison sentences and militarized police tactics that have led to two million Americans being incarcerated, millions more under some kind of supervision and cops with assault weapons and body armor assaulting Americans mostly for drugs.

The 2016 candidate even gave suggestions to the activists, telling them that without a concrete plan their movement will get nothing but “lip service from as many white people as you can pack into Yankee Stadium and a million more like it.”

“Look, I don’t believe you change hearts,” Clinton said, arguing that the movement can’t change deep seated racism. “I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not. But at the end of the day, we could do a whole lot to change some hearts and change some systems and create more opportunities for people who deserve to have them, to live up to their own God-given potential.”

She is absolutely correct, although probably for reasons she would disagree with. I think it was P.J. O’Rourke who defined a statist as someone who thinks government can change human nature. Government can not make people less racist, assuming that racism is the problem here. Government can, however, make itself less powerful, less intrusive, more accountable and more respectful of our basic civil liberties. In other words, it can create a system whereby human weaknesses and failings — greed, power-lust or even racism — have less ability to damage the lives of its citizens.

She’s also right about Black Lives Matter. Right now, they don’t have any solid proposals for how to deal with any of the problems they are worried about. They are reminding me increasingly of Occupy Wall Street which had an issue (wealth inequality, bailouts) but no idea of what to do about it.

Raising awareness is a good thing. But ultimately, it has to be followed by concrete action or it’s just noise. And I’ll give Mrs. Clinton credit for saying so.