Unmentioned, as far as I know, in all the discussion about the escape of two convicted murderers from the Clinton Correctional Facility (the name itself could be the title of a future article on politics!) is this simple fact: had the murderers been executed, as murderers should be, they would not be currently on the lam, people in the vicinity of the escape would not be hiding behind closed doors with all local schools closed, and we would not be talking about them. Much of the opposition to the death penalty ignores its basic justice and focuses on the dangers of executing the innocent (whom, of course, no one wants to execute, just like no one wants to imprison the innocent); but it fails to consider the danger to society posed by keeping the convicted violent alive, either on their fellow inmates, prison guards, or – as now – innocent civilians who might be caught in the crossfire.
That is simply a sidebar to the return to the 1970’s that American society is now undergoing – the increase in crime, the urban discontent, the persistent sniping at the police and authority and the lingering notion that much of urban America is a failed society that cannot be redeemed. Politicians – especially liberals – are looking assiduously for answers in all the wrong places. Cities with the most restrictive gun control laws are – not ironically but predictably – the most violent places in the country. Those laws keep guns out of the hands of the law-abiding, not the violent and depraved. The evisceration of the “stop and frisk” policy of the NYPD has led to an increase in shootings and homicides, and mostly in depressed communities. Who would’ve thought that?? Criminals who no longer fear being stopped, frisked and arrested are now carrying firearms more frequently, and they are not being stopped and frisked. Those results were, unfortunately, almost impossible to foresee (by those wearing blinders). It just seemed to them more likely that a decrease in “stop and frisk” would have engendered a more grateful community, whose criminal elements would now desist from illegal weapons possession out of respect for the respect shown them.
Do people with ideas like that really exist? Yes. And not only do they exist but also they largely govern America’s cities. The consequences are obvious.
More importantly, police shootings of civilians have decreased dramatically over the last 10, 20, 30 and 40 years, but you wouldn’t know it from the hullabaloo across the country. Police conduct – from Ferguson to New York, from Baltimore to Texas – is ab initio judged unfavorably. The police are suspects in any confrontation with minorities and presumed to be guilty even if after due process has found no cause for prosecution. Since the Baltimore riots, violent crime has escalated in Baltimore and there has been a spike in homicides and other crimes in the depressed neighborhoods. The same has occurred in other cities in which the police have found themselves under siege.
It is as if the police have absented themselves and said: “You don’t want us? You only find fault with us? You blame us for any confrontation? So, live without us. See how much you enjoy that.” A black man died in police custody, and Baltimore erupted in violence, arson and mayhem. Politicians and racial hucksters of all types descended on Baltimore to make their statements and castigate the police. The next weekend, nine blacks were shot to death in Baltimore, presumably by other blacks. No politicians, no hucksters, no statements – and no riots. Go figure.
In my work as an attorney, I met the occasional police officer who bent the rules (usually, to facilitate the prosecution of someone who otherwise could not be charged) and some who were arrogant and condescending. Then as now, the overwhelming majority are not like that but are attempting to do an impossible job – protecting the innocent from an underclass that is essentially fatherless, uneducated or just undereducated, with little prospects for income-producing jobs that can support families if indeed they desired to support their families.
It doesn’t have to be like that nor does it help to blame everyone else for one’s own problems – the standard approach today. Intact families usually produce decent, law-abiding children. Even in fatherless families, strong mothers have been able to control and guide their offspring into becoming productive citizens. I knew teenage delinquents who were hesitant to be released from custody on bail or on their own recognizance because they feared the repercussions from their mothers who awaited them in the courtroom. On several occasions, I personally witnessed mothers smack their sons upon their release to the extent that court officers had to intervene, so disappointed and disgusted were the mothers with their sons’ misconduct. I trust that still exists.
But blaming the police has been added to blaming the society, the white establishment, slavery, etc. for all the ailments of the black community. Such is misguided, self-serving and plain wrong. Whatever one says about the tragic encounters between police and black men who have died in the recent past (and it seems clear in hindsight that some of the situations should have been resolved without fatalities) it should be noted that the police were not engaging choirboys and choirgirls, nuns and saints. Almost everyone was involved in some past or present unlawful conduct, not conduct that merited death but conduct that was criminal – petty theft, trespassing, outstanding warrants, failure to pay child support, resisting arrest, etc. I can’t say that no police officer ever randomly selects an innocent individual for excessively harsh treatment (I represented any number of people charged with resisting arrest – but no underlying crime!) but it is and was extremely rare.
It should be possible to acknowledge that some of the victims here died unnecessarily and also concede that they were up to no good, and that no good attracted the attention of the police. And then their real problems began. But would you rather have the police not intervene, looking away so as not to confront wrongdoers? Well, that is Baltimore in the weeks after the riots, and that is New York City where crime is up and arrests are down for much the same reason. It’s a terrible choice for each police officer: ignore crime-ridden neighborhoods and leave the innocent to their fate (and come home alive every night) or try to arrest the bad guys and be automatically accused of bias, and then watch the arrest and the force used to execute that arrest on YouTube painting you in the eyes of the world as just another yahoo cracker. Why bother?
And here’s the police dilemma, and why I tend to support the police despite occasional missteps that stem not from prejudice or overzealousness as much as from the need to make split-second decisions under great stress. Much was made – and not unfairly – of the black man shot in the back by a police officer (since fired and charged with murder) in South Carolina. Even if the deceased ran two blocks to escape arrest on an outstanding warrant, he need not have died and being shot in the back is never easy to defend.
In New York City not long ago, a young police officer thought he saw a gun in the waistband of a young black man who was walking away from him. The officer ordered the man to stop, pulled his gun but did not shoot that man in the back. The man instead turned, and fired his weapon into the head of Police Officer Brian Moore. The officer, highly acclaimed during his five years on the NYPD, was 25 years old at the time of his death.
Moore did not shoot – and he was murdered.
In such an environment, it makes one wonder why anyone would want to be a police officer and risk one’s life to protect people in the inner cities, some of whom seem less than appreciative of the role of the police officer. Worse, if Moore had shot his killer first – before he himself was shot – he would have been pilloried by the liberal media as another reckless, hateful white cop gunning down blacks. The difference between the two outcomes – and between life and death – was a split second. Was Officer Moore hesitant in responding because of the negative publicity of the other incidents, because of the open season on police officers across the country, because of the fear of being presumed a racist murderer if he had fired first? We will never know.
It shouldn’t be like that. The irony is that police shootings of civilians are a tiny fraction today of what they were even forty years ago. A further irony is that blacks are worse off today by every indicator than they were before the Obama presidency which they supported almost unanimously and which was supposed to bring them salvation from all their ills. Nothing will change until the black family is reinvigorated and stabilized, and the black community begins to accept responsibility for its own failings. Nothing will change until there is an outcry in the black community against the dysfunction in their homes and the criminals in their midst, and a return to values.
Indeed, nothing will change as long as the outrage against the one white cop who kills a black youth dramatically exceeds the outrage against the hundred black youth who kill each other and some innocent bystanders as well. Ultimately, the fault lies with the evildoers – not with the people who try to prevent the evil or have to pick up the pieces afterward.
So where are the leaders – black or white, politicians or preachers – who will say that?