The Inexcusable Death of Tyre Nichols

You’ve heard the saying that one shouldn’t ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence. In the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers, there is ample evidence of both.

On Friday, officials in Memphis released four videos, each showing different views of the fatal police encounter with Nichols. Three of the videos were taken from body camera footage of involved officers, and the fourth was from a police camera mounted on a streetlight pole overlooking the intersection where Nichols was arrested. For a better understanding of the events as they unfolded, I relied on a montage assembled by the Washington Post, in which each of the four videos appears in a separate panel and is synched with the others. (The time stamps in the various videos are slightly offset, resulting in an imprecise sync.)

The incident began on Jan. 7 at about 8:24 p.m., when Memphis police officers assigned to the SCORPION unit (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) stopped Nichols at the intersection of Raines Road and Ross Road, in the southeast part of the city. As the video begins, an officer drives up to the intersection where Nichols’s car is already stopped facing west in the left-turn lane of Raines Road. As this officer exits his car, we see two unmarked blue Dodge Chargers, one to the left and parallel to Nichols’s car, the other in front and perpendicular to it as if parked to cut off Nichols’s path. The reason for the initial stop is not made clear in the video, but it is immediately apparent that the officers are in a heightened emotional state.

For clarity, or as much as can be had at this point, let’s label the officers thus far involved as Officers 1, 2, and 3. Officer 1 is the one arriving and whose body camera footage we see. Officer 2 is at the driver’s side of Nichols’s car, and officer 3 is on the right side. “Get the f*** out the f***ing car,” says Officer 2 as he pulls Nichols from the driver’s seat. Nichols appears to be cooperative as he is roughly handled and forced to the ground next to his car. Despite Nichols’s apparent docility, officers continue to shout profanity-laced commands at him, some of them nonsensical.

Not too much to ask.

“Get on the ground!” shouts an officer, even as Nichols is already seated on the pavement and offering no resistance. What follows is difficult to discern on the body camera footage, but for reasons I can neither explain nor even imagine, Officer 1 deploys a Taser, and Officer 2 or 3 (perhaps both) sprays Nichols with pepper spray. Neither the Taser nor the pepper spray appears to be effective as Nichols is able to get up and escape, running south on Ross Road. Officers 1 and 3 briefly pursue on foot but give up after running about 200 feet.

When Officer 1 broadcasts Nichols’s description and direction of travel, the communications operator asks an important question: “Any charges on him?” Implicit in the question are considerations of how much time and effort should be expended in locating and arresting the outstanding suspect. Officer 1 does not answer. The time is now 8:27.

As Officers 1 and 3 return to the intersection, Officer 2 gets in his car, the one perpendicular to Nichols’s, and drives off south on Ross Road. Officers 1 and 3 remain at the intersection, with Officer 1 helping Officer 3 rinse pepper spray from his eyes. Neither Officer 1 nor 3 are involved in what follows.

A threat and a promise.

At 8:32, two officers in an unmarked car spot Nichols near the intersection of Ross Road and Castlegate Lane, about 1,700 feet south of where he was first stopped. We’ll call the passenger Officer 4 and the driver Officer 5. They stop their car on Ross and chase Nichols on foot, with Officer 4 reaching him first and pushing him to the ground. Officer 5 soon arrives, as does Officer 6 driving a gray unmarked Charger. (We have no body camera video from Officer 6.) At 8:32:53, as shown on Officer 4’s body camera, Nichols is on the ground with Officer 4 having control of his left arm. Nichols can be heard shouting “Mom,” several times (his mother reportedly lives a short distance away).

At 8:33:01, the video image from Officer 4’s camera goes black, as it appears to have fallen to the ground. For several seconds, the only video available is that of Officer 5, which shows Officers 4 and 6 punching Nichols in the head as he lay on the ground. Officer 5, for no reason I am able to discern, sprays Nichols with pepper spray. At 8:33:19, Nichols appears to be utterly vanquished as he lies on the ground trying to wipe the pepper spray from his eyes. “All right, all right,” Nichols says. He is neither resisting nor attempting to escape.

At 8:33:24, we see the arrival of another officer in a blue unmarked Charger. This may be Officer 2, the one who had pulled Nichols from his car at the initial traffic stop, but I have a degree of uncertainty about this, so I will refer to him as Officer X. It is Officer X, in my opinion, who inflicted the most serious injuries on Nichols. For reasons that can’t be discerned on Officer 5’s body camera, Officers 4, 5, and 6 resume punching Nichols as he lay on the ground. Officer X joins the fray, though what force he used on Nichols at that point, if any, isn’t clear in Officer 5’s video.

There is a police-operated camera mounted on a streetlight pole on the northeast corner of Castlegate Lane and Bear Creek Lane. When Nichols is first confronted at that intersection, the camera is aimed east on Castlegate and does not capture the initial takedown. At 8:33:30, the camera begins panning to the west, finally settling on the action taking place at 8:33:45. At that time we see Officer X near the front of his car, Officer 5 walking west toward the other unmarked car after apparently spraying himself with pepper spray, and Officers 4 and 6 standing over Nichols.

Up to the juries now.

As Officers 4 and 6 grapple ineffectively with Nichols, with one of them saying, “Give me your f***ing hands,” Officer X can be seen walking over and, at 8:34:14, delivering a kick to Nichols’s head. At 8:34:27 he kicks Nichols in the head a second time.

At 8:34:54, after recovering sufficiently from pepper spraying himself, Officer 5 extends a collapsible baton, walks over to Nichols and says, “Watch out, I’m gonna baton the f*** out of you.” He delivers two strikes with the baton, both of which appear to hit Nichols in the back.

Nichols rises to his feet, and at 8:35:14, as Officers 4 and 6 grapple with him, Officer X rears back and punches Nichols in the head. He punches him four more times over the next several seconds and Nichols falls to the ground. Officer 5 walks away and broadcasts their location as Officers X, 4, and 6 continue grappling with Nichols.

At 8:36:04, the flashing lights of at least one arriving police car can be seen, and soon Officer 7 and 8 appear, neither of whom appear to use force on Nichols. At 8:36:21, an officer can be seen kicking Nichols, possibly in the head. (This may have been Officer 4, 6, or X. Given their distance from the camera and the similarity of their appearance, it’s difficult to discern who delivers this kick.)

Officer 9 comes into frame at 8:36:21. He is the first to appear wearing a standard police uniform, indicating he works patrol rather than the SCORPION unit. He at first seems unsure of what he should do, but eventually he takes the prudent action of controlling Nichols’s legs. Finally, at about 8:37, it appears Nichols is handcuffed, and at about 8:38 he is dragged over and placed in a seated position against the side of an unmarked car.

Fire department medics arrive at the scene at 8:41 and, contrary to some reports, they begin to assess Nichols’s condition, the life-threatening nature of which could not have been apparent at the time. Nichols was conscious, breathing, and not bleeding profusely, so there was no indication of an injury that should or could have been addressed and stabilized at the scene.

Elvis doesn't live here anymore.

At 9:00, an ambulance gurney is rolled into view, and at 9:02 an ambulance arrives and parks in such a way as to block the pole camera’s view of Nichols, after which the video ends. Nichols is taken to St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, where he dies on January 10.

An official autopsy report on Nichols has not yet been released, but a pathologist hired by Nichols’s family performed an independent autopsy and concluded Nichols died from “extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating.”

That’s exactly what it was, and in my judgment not a single kick, punch, baton strike, Taser activation, or use of pepper spray can be justified under the law. And while five of the involved officers have been fired and charged with murder, I believe it is the one I call Officer X who is the most culpable in the death of Tyre Nichols, for it was he who delivered the two kicks and five vicious punches to Nichols’s head that will likely prove to have been the fatal blows.

But while the incident ended in criminality, it began in incompetence. The three officers involved in the initial stop were unable to subdue and restrain Nichols even after putting him on the ground, this despite the fact that at least two of them appeared to outweigh him by at least fifty pounds. I will grant that it is not easy to handcuff someone who does not wish to be, but given the minimal level of resistance Nichols appeared to be offering, it should have been a simple matter of one officer controlling his legs while the other two each controlled an arm. If in attempting this they were still unable to handcuff him, they should have kept him on the ground until additional officers arrived.

The same can be said for when Nichols was taken down minutes later. With two, three, then four officers coping with Nichols, who was already on the ground, they should have had him in handcuffs within seconds, as even minimally competent officers could have accomplished. What instead followed was not something that even remotely resembled a lawful use of force, but rather some 3 a.m. Waffle House beat-down. It was a disgrace.

In addition to the incompetence, in addition to the outright thuggery, other failures are evident if not explicit in the videos released on Friday. At no time during the incident, despite it lasting more than a half-hour, is there any indication that a supervisor responds and takes charge. Was there a SCORPION unit sergeant on duty at the time, and if so, where was he?

The usual suspects now appear.

Also telling is how few patrol officers responded to the incident. A foot pursuit in most police departments would bring every available officer within miles, regardless of their assignment. Here, only two patrol officers appear to have responded. To me, this says most of the patrol officers were aware of the SCORPION unit’s reputation, as reflected in this incident, and chose not to involve themselves.

The five officers implicated in Nichols’s death had between two and six years on the job, the prime range for cops to think they are more skilled than they are and less accountable than they should be. This is doubly so in specialized units, and even more so in units that are inadequately supervised, as the SCORPION unit seems to have been.

Let each of these five now-former officers answer to the charges in court, and let each receive justice according to his own conduct. But the repercussions shouldn’t stop there. When the incident is examined more deeply, perhaps we will learn how far up the chain of command the SCORPION unit’s manifest deficiencies were known. It is inconceivable to me that Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis was unaware of them. She deserves to lose her job, as does anyone who turned a blind eye to the misconduct that surely preceded the inexcusable death of Tyre Nichols.

'Intersectional' Rank Has Its Privileges

A sample conundrum from everyday life: If a Latino transsexual, a black homosexual, a disabled, homeless white woman, and a mixed-race nonbinary person arrive simultaneously at four-way stop sign, which of them has the right of way? Witness the dilemma playing out in Los Angeles, where some favored pets of the left, known to most as drug-addicted vagrants but to their many admirers as the “unhoused” or “people experiencing homelessness,” are preventing people from charging their precious electric cars. The Daily Mail recently reported that access to some EV charging stations on Los Angeles streets has been blocked by homeless people, some of whom have appointed themselves as the stations’ “attendants,” presumably charging a fee for their use.

So, what’s the environmentally conscious Angeleno to do when some malodorous bum stands between his Tesla and its needed voltage? Call the cops, you say? Yes, in a sane world, in a just world, the police would indeed keep the sidewalks clear of vagrants who claim swaths of public property for their own use. But this is Los Angeles, which, in its desire to be hospitable to these vagrants, is neither sane nor just. The Los Angeles Police Department, as eager as its members might be to restore order on the streets, is constrained by the city’s political class from taking action against the homeless, who, like those in most Democrat-governed cities, have in effect been made immune from most of the laws the rest of us must obey.


Los Angeles voters had an opportunity to change this, but in November’s mayoral election they chose the status quo, electing the reliably leftist Karen Bass over real estate developer Rick Caruso. Yes, Bass took office promising action on the homeless, declaring a “state of emergency” immediately after being sworn in last month, but anyone hoping for a significant reduction in the widespread blight caused by vagrants in Los Angeles will surely come to be disappointed.

There are two main reasons for this. First, as counterintuitive as it may seem, there is big money to be made in homelessness. The city of Los Angeles allocates $1.2 billion on homeless programs in the current budget, and Los Angeles County will add another $532.6 million to the pot in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Some significant portion of this money flows through the various nonprofits ostensibly dedicated to helping the homeless. To the uninitiated, the term “nonprofit” may conjure images of selfless people laboring for the betterment of mankind while taking little for themselves, but while the organizations themselves do not technically profit from the enterprise, some of the individuals they employ make out handsomely.

A big name in the California homeless business is PATH (People Assisting The Homeless), which has a growth record that would be the envy of any for-profit company. According to PATH’s IRS 990 forms, total revenue has grown from $7.6 million in 2011 to $88.5 million for the fiscal year that ended in June 2020. Out of the 2020 figure, about 39 percent went to employee salaries. The CEO for that year, Joel Roberts, was paid $265,951, a bump of more than $15,000 from the previous year. He was recently succeeded by Jennifer Hark Dietz, who in her former post of deputy CEO had to scrape by on a mere $214,982 in 2020. The salaries of six other PATH executives ranged between $130,526 and $171,982 that year.

If the homeless problem were to be magically solved overnight, where would people like these go to earn such a comfortable living? No, there are too many people, inside and outside of government, who are too deeply invested in homelessness to see it ended. The more money made available to address a perceived problem, the greater the incentive to grow the apparatus that spends it and the more people opening their hands to accept it. This is how we arrived here.

I have lived in and around Los Angeles my entire life and spent more than 30 years with the LAPD. I can recall a time when the city’s homeless population was confined to the few square blocks of downtown known as Skid Row, where even among the homeless certain rules were observed. With the proliferation of organizations intended to help the homeless, with the infusion of the billions of dollars dedicated to that purpose, Los Angeles has attracted vagrants from across the country and beyond, offering them a lifestyle free of obligations in a year-round temperate climate. Today there an estimated 40,000 homeless people in Los Angeles, and those rules once observed in the Skid Row area have become but a memory as homeless encampments have sprung up in virtually every neighborhood in the city to go largely unhindered due to the misguided notions of “compassion” shared among the city’s politicians.


The other reason L.A.’s homeless problem won’t be soon abated lies with Mayor Karen Bass herself and her fellow travelers in municipal government. For all her talk of an “emergency,” Bass is unlikely to take the most obvious step necessary to correct it, which would be to enforce laws long on the books but in recent years ignored with near impunity among the homeless, primarily those against theft and drug use. Yes, there are law-abiding people among the homeless but they are rare. When you see a homeless encampment on the streets of Los Angeles or any other city, the safe assumption is that every one of its occupants is a thief and a drug addict.

New PATH CEO Jennifer Park Dietz decries what she sees as the “criminalization of homelessness,” ignoring the fact that, at least in Los Angeles, one would need a diplomatic passport to enjoy more immunity from the law than a homeless person. And new mayor Karen Bass, who as a teenager built houses in Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade, and who rose in Democratic politics by reliably toeing the leftist line, will be the last to tilt at any of the left’s cherished shibboleths.

Caught between a restive population grown weary of the homeless and a municipal government bent on coddling them is the LAPD, whose chief, Michel Moore, recently announced his bid to be reappointed for a second five-year term. Moore is at least as much a politician as he is a police officer, probably much more so, and while serving under previous mayor Eric Garcetti he revealed his eagerness to adopt any policy that suited Garcetti’s aims.


So pliable has Moore been to his political masters that his reappointment was thought to be a shoo-in, but when the Los Angeles Times, i.e., the third branch of city government, editorialized against a hasty decision on the matter, the involved parties drew back for reassessment. I read this to mean Moore, if he hopes to be reappointed, will have to do even more kowtowing to Bass and her leftist cronies, which can only mean a more constrained police force. The city saw a slight drop in homicides in 2022, which is welcome news, but robberies and every type of property crime increased while overall arrests continued their years-long decline.

In her campaign for mayor, Karen Bass promised to “dramatically reduce street homelessness” and “end street encampments.” Her predecessor made similar promises in 2013, only to see the problem grow immeasurably worse during his tenure. Unless and until Bass instructs her cops that the homeless are subject to the law and should suffer consequences for breaking it, she will have the same experience.

The Punk-Elite Complicity in the War on Civilization

We've previously mentioned the trend among environmentalist activists of attempting to deface timeless works of art in order to, somehow, save the planet. In the past few months their acts of vandalism have included smearing cake on da Vinci's Mona Lisa; dousing Van Gogh's Sunflowers with tomato soup; throwing mashed potatoes at Monet's Mueles; and gluing themselves to Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, while pouring soup on it.

These acts are deplorable. But, in one sense, we should be grateful for them. They have made plain the anti-civilizational barbarism of the environmentalist movement. They've broadcast to the world the fact that they despise the highest achievements of mankind. They always have, in fact, but regular people didn't notice as much when their ire was turned towards fracking or the Industrial Revolution. These targets were too abstract, and seemed so deeply embedded in our society that they couldn't be materially damaged by a bunch of hippies chanting about them, or even those hippies' highly remunerated lobbyists.

But there is something about striking out at timeless works of beauty which provokes a visceral reaction in people. When viewing the videos of these incidents, you can't help but notice the gasps of horror and the shouts of rage of museum-goers. It is likely that these people are of various political persuasions, and one would assume that many of them are generally sympathetic towards environmentalism. But they recognize immediately that these hoodlums are striking out at the frail beauty which Shakespeare contemplates in Sonnet 65, and they -- and everyone who sees the videos that the activists themselves are posting online -- are repulsed. Clearly what these activists are doing is beyond the pale.

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Make no mistake, these are desperate acts from members of a movement who can feel their influence diminishing as the west's energy crisis (for which they are more-than-partially responsible) worsens and winter approaches. That's why they've started including "fuel poverty" amongst their grievances. "People in fuel poverty, who have to choose between heating and eating, are not protected" said the Belgian thug who vandalized the Vermeer painting. But this is a non-sequitur. His own preferred solutions presumably do not include getting those people inexpensive and environmentally friendly natural gas. So who is to blame for fuel poverty? Not the oil and gas companies!

Now, thankfully, the masterpieces were protected from permanent damage by their plexiglass coverings, but if this trend continues, chances are they are going to succeed in destroying something permanently. And, unfortunately, our governing class can't bring itself to stand up to protestors. Some of them are even siding with barbarism -- in one instance the prosecution requested the vandals be sentenced to four months in prison, but the judge said she was "wary that too harsh of a sentence would deter future protests."

Deterring crimes, you say? Well we can't have that!

Of course, crime tends to beget crime, and there's no guarantee that these activists will stop here, especially as they see the state failing to stand up to them. In Canada we've seen environmentalists blockade trains and attack workers at a drilling site, and Leftists have made a minor celebrity of Andreas Malm, author of a manifesto entitled How to Blow Up a Pipeline. And the German government is reportedly taking very seriously reports of a “green R.A.F.,” inspired by the terrorist Red Army Faction which menaced West Germany during the Cold War, who are said to be planning acts of sabotage in the coming months.

All of which is to say, while these terrorists our weak, our governing class is weaker. And if these attacks on our civilization continue, or worsen, it is our elites who will be to blame.

Enemies of the People: Lori Lightfoot

Murder, Inc. Meets 'Calvin and Hobbes'

I recall with fondness the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes,” in which cartoonist Bill Watterson reminded us of the youthful joys of playing “pretend.” Calvin was a 6-year-old boy; Hobbes was his stuffed tiger, but when Calvin was alone, Hobbes came to extraordinary life, becoming a mordant philosopher, sage, and most of all loyal companion on Calvin’s imaginary adventures.

My favorites appeared on the occasional Sunday, when Calvin, in the persona of his alter-ego Spaceman Spiff, rocketed through the cosmos to battle all manner of hideous alien creatures, smiting them with his “frap-ray blaster." By the final panel, though, Spaceman Spiff most often crash-landed back on Earth, where the space monsters were revealed to be his teacher Miss Wormwood, babysitter Rosalyn, or classmate Susie Derkins. For all the joy we may have experienced in joining Calvin on his flights of imagination, Watterson could always be counted on to bring Calvin – and us – back to cruel reality. How we long for someone to do so today.

Yes, it’s fun to play “pretend,” but one can only play it for so long. For too many people in America today, it has become far too easy to pretend that, to cite just a few examples of fashionable delusions, the president and vice president are competent, that inflation is not a problem, that the southern border is secure, that men can become women and vice-versa, and, most troubling to those in my profession, that crime can be reduced by being kinder to criminals.

The New York Times recently reassured us that murder across the U.S. has trended slightly downward this year after a dramatic rise that began, not coincidentally, in the summer of 2020. This is welcome news, certainly, but there is little to indicate violent crime will return to its pre-George Floyd levels anytime soon.

And why would it? Our media and academic elites, wracked by misplaced guilt over what they have labeled “mass incarceration,” have cowed politicians into enacting policies that have hamstrung the police and emboldened criminals, with the result being an increase in crime, reversing a trend that began when crime peaked in the early 1990’s. Despite the minor decline cited in the New York Times, crime and disorder will in all likelihood increase until those same politicians, like Calvin in the final panel, crash land back in reality, or else are voted out and replaced by others already so grounded.

And how was that crime wave stemmed? By the simple acts of identifying and arresting lawbreakers, then keeping them incarcerated for long periods, thereby removing them from the society of their law-abiding fellow citizens. In New York City, for example, murders peaked at a horrifying 2,245 in 1990, or more than six every day. This high-water mark, or to put it more grimly but accurately, high-blood mark, came after the yearly number had remained at over 1,500 since 1972.

Owing to the innovative police practices instituted by William Bratton, who was appointed commissioner of the NYPD in 1994, murders in the city declined to 983 by 1996, when Bratton resigned, and continued falling steadily until 2019, when the figure was 319, a remarkable achievement in any case, but especially so given the two million increase in the city’s population over the same period.

And yet, since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, when the great national game of “pretend” spread more rapidly and thoroughly than even Covid, it’s being undone. There were 468 murders in New York City in 2020 and 488 in 2021, figures that are acceptable to the city’s pols and those in Albany, who coldly calculate that the added deaths are an acceptable price to pay for greater “equity” in the criminal justice system, which in turn yield favorable mentions in the sacred text of the modern left, the New York Times.

While the national murder trend is slightly downward, some cities in the country are still experiencing frightening increases. In Birmingham, Ala., murders are up 34 percent from the same period last year, the same increase seen in New Orleans. Phoenix, Long Beach, Calif., Denver, and Milwaukee have all seen slightly smaller but still worrying increases.

And the murder numbers don’t tell the whole story. In Chicago, murders have fallen 16 percent, year over year, but a sense of ungovernable disorder has gripped the city. Violent crime has long been considered a fact of life on the city’s South and West Sides, but neighborhoods once thought to be safe, like Lake View, Lincoln Park, and even the Gold Coast, have seen a sudden spike in robberies and carjackings. Chicago’s media, including its two major daily newspapers, do their best to ignore or downplay the city’s crime problem, but websites like CWB Chicago and keep Chicagoans  informed. On any given day a visit to CWB Chicago will present the latest person accused of a killing or attempting to kill someone while out on little or no bail for a pending felony case (the total is 42 so far this year).

Also on the website are videos of the wanton violence plaguing Chicago, incidents like this one, in which a man was robbed and beaten on a CTA train, or this one, in which a man was robbed at gunpoint in the Wicker Park neighborhood. The victim managed to escape, but a final thumb in the eye for him, and for all honest citizens of Chicago, came when police officers spotted the robbers’ car but were forbidden from giving chase due to the city’s ridiculously restrictive pursuit policy. Detectives believe the crew is responsible for at least ten other robberies, a number that will surely increase as the thugs know that to escape apprehension all they have to do is drive away.

[Google/YouTube has seen fit to "restrict" the video below, for no other reason than it depicts in an unflattering light several muggers in hoodies leaping from a car and attacking an innocent woman walking down a residential street in broad daylight. Click on it anyway:]

It has always perplexed me that a state so full of fine people can produce the most loathsome, corrupt, and inept politicians, but Illinois pols have truly outdone themselves with the passage of the ludicrously misnamed SAFE-T Act. Just as the Inflation Reduction Act will lead to higher inflation, the SAFE-T Act will make people in Illinois less safe. Among the many provisions in the law’s 800 pages, which was hurriedly passed in the final hours of the legislative session, is one that eliminates cash bail for those arrested for any offense conceivably punishable by probation, a list that includes almost any crime one could name short of first-degree murder.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is fond of pointing to the city’s 16 percent reduction in murders this year, but she is careful not to mention that even with this decrease, Chicago’s murders are 32 percent higher than they were before the Summer of George Floyd. The SAFE-T Act, which becomes law Jan. 1, will only make things worse.

We don’t have to accept this. We know how to combat crime because we did it in the 1990’s. How many hundreds or thousands more people will die before we stop playing “pretend”? I wonder what Hobbes would have to say about it.

Dave Chappelle and the Death of Free Speech

Consider that somewhere in your city or town, in some cramped apartment or neighborhood coffee shop, there sits an aspiring young comedian pecking at a laptop or scribbling on a legal pad as he prepares the set he is soon to perform at a local comedy club. And as he pecks or scribbles, he looks over his five or ten minutes of material, moving bits up or down in the order in his desire to open and close with his strongest material. Then he reflects on one particular joke in the routine, one that when first written down he was certain would score with the audience but now must consider excising from the set. “Could this be the one,” he asks himself, “could this be the joke that gets me killed?”

In comedy’s long history, practitioners of the trade have been cloaked with what was once known as the “jester’s privilege,” a certain license that protected them from consequences when they made an observation that, from another’s lips, would have been viewed as transgressive. As should now be obvious to all, the jester’s privilege is dead.

'Tain't funny, McGee.

And dead, perhaps, is what Dave Chappelle might be had the man who attacked him at the Hollywood Bowl recently desired it. The alleged assailant, Isaiah Lee, 23, has pleaded not guilty to four charges: battery, possession of a weapon with intent to assault, unauthorized access to a stage during a performance, and commission of an act that delays an event or interferes with a performer. All of these charges are misdemeanors, carrying no greater sentence than a year in the county jail. Lee was originally arrested and booked on the felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon, but the district attorney’s office rejected the case and referred it to the city attorney for misdemeanor prosecution.

The D.A. in Los Angeles is George Gascón, with whom you may be familiar as a member of the crop of George Soros-funded “progressive” prosecutors lately installed here and there around the country, men and women devoted to “reforming” the criminal justice system. All available evidence suggests that wherever these so-called reforms have been instituted, increases in crime and disorder have followed, and Los Angeles is no exception.

Gascón is currently facing a recall campaign, and his refusal to file felony charges against Lee has stoked outrage among his detractors, whose number now includes podcaster Joe Rogan. Rogan took to Instagram to lament Gascón’s decision. “When you see that a person commits a clear crime,” says Rogan’s post, “and does it to one of the most loved performers alive, and does it in a very high profile public setting, and it gets captured on video, and you don’t charge that person for what they obviously did, it’s the kind of thing that makes people lose faith in law enforcement.”

Perhaps so, but loath as I am to defend Gascón, his rejection of felony charges in the Chappelle matter is entirely reasonable and indeed the only ethical choice. It may be true that Chappelle is, as Rogan describes him, one of the most beloved performers, and it is indisputably true that the Hollywood Bowl is a high-profile public setting, but neither of these factors weighs in the determination of the appropriate charge against Lee. He was arrested and booked under a charge of assault with a deadly weapon, but sober examination of the incident reveals his conduct did not match the elements of this crime under California law.

Gascon: why is this man laughing?

Yes, at the time Lee rushed the stage and assaulted Chappelle, he is said to have possessed a deadly weapon, to wit, a replica handgun built into which was a folding knife, but it was in a bag Lee carried and was never wielded at Chappelle or any of the men who pursued and subdued Lee backstage. Further, Chappelle was uninjured and continued his performance when the commotion settled. Not even the most aggressive, law-and-order prosecutor would file a felony charge given this set of facts.

Though Chappelle soldiered on and appeared unfazed, as his fans have come to expect, in his quiet moments since that day he surely must have wondered, as we all must have, what might have happened had Lee been more determined to cause him harm. Lee somehow carried his weapon through the Hollywood Bowl’s security measures, then to the foot of the stage and finally onto the stage itself. Lee easily could have inflicted a mortal wound on Chappelle with such a weapon. And consider that if a replica handgun passed through security with such apparent ease, what would have prevented Lee from bringing a real one?

Returning now to our aspiring comedian, what assurance does he have that one of his jokes will not ignite in some member of his audience a violent impulse similar to that which stirred within Isaiah Lee? If Dave Chappelle, with all his handlers and security team, can be attacked in front of 17,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl, what chance does an unknown have at the local comedy club should some lunatic try to take him out?

Dave Chappelle may well continue with his brand of comedy without the protection of the jester’s privilege, and in fact he seems to revel in the discomfiture he inspires in his critics. But those below him in the show business pecking order are likely to be far more circumspect in their choice of material. In recent years we have witnessed the homogenization of comedy, and indeed of most entertainment media, as jokes about or representations of various interest groups have been placed beyond the pale. Chappelle sparked outrage last year when he made sport of transgenderism in his Netflix special, “The Closer,” this despite the fact that the opinions he expressed on the matter are shared by at least 90 percent of Americans.

Today, it no longer matters how commonly held an opinion may be if it flies in the face of some dogma embraced by the radical left. If, for example, you express anything less than full-throated endorsement of the delusion that Rachel Levine is a woman, you may find yourself booted from social media, fired from your job, and now even physically assaulted, all with the blessing of the elites in media and academia.

So good for Netflix, which this week revised its house rules for snowflakes, a move no doubt occasioned by Chappelle's experience:

The document adds a new directive for employees to act with fiscal responsibility — a change that comes as Netflix in Q1 saw its first decline in subscribers in more than a decade. The updated Netflix Culture memo also includes a new section called “Artistic Expression,” explaining that the streamer will not “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees consider the content “harmful,” and bluntly states, “If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you.”

The Artistic Expression portion of the Netflix Culture document appears in large part a response to the controversy over Dave Chappelle’s “The Closer” that embroiled Netflix last fall over what critics said were his transphobic and homophobic comments in the stand-up special. Co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended the company’s decision to keep the Chappelle special on the service, triggering a large employee walkout in protest.

Still, it now appears likely that our increasingly volatile country faces another summer of discontent, for if the leaked Dobbs opinion reflects the final Supreme Court holding and Roe v. Wade is overturned, the protests that will follow may well rival those engendered by the death of George Floyd in 2020. As on so many other issues, on the matter of abortion, our elites brook no dissent, not from you and me, not from Dave Chappelle, and not from some aspiring comedian grasping for just a fraction of Chappelle’s success.

Grand Theft Auto, Courtesy of George Gascón

The Yiddish word for it is chutzpah, but there are other, more prosaic terms that come to mind as well, like “obtuse,” or perhaps “clueless.” I refer to a recent public service announcement from George Gascón, district attorney of Los Angeles County, in which he educates the crime-weary citizens of that sprawling county on how to avoid having their cars stolen.

Gascón is one of the so-called “progressive” prosecutors recently installed across the country, men and women who persuaded sufficient numbers of voters to share their childlike fantasy that criminals, no matter how hardened, will mend their ways if we would but treat them more kindly. Alas, any evidence that this is not merely a fantasy remains elusive.

Like his progressive comrades, Gascón campaigned on claims that the criminal justice system is unduly harsh on defendants, most especially those “of color.” Flush with cash from George Soros and other deep-pocketed leftists, Gascón defeated incumbent Jackie Lacey in 2020, riding the national wave of anti-police sentiment that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Immediately upon taking office, he implemented changes that would have the effect of decreasing the overall number of prosecutions in L.A. County and minimizing the sentences of those so depraved as to be unworthy of outright dismissal of their charges.

Turn 'em loose, George.

He also eliminated cash bail for most defendants, declined to seek the death penalty in even the most heinous murder cases, and ended the practice of trying juveniles accused of murder in adult court, no matter how many they may have killed, how cruelly they may have carried out the killing, or how near to turning 18 they may have been at the time they killed. GranWhat has followed comes as no surprise to anyone not still clinging to the notion that crime can be reduced by softening the consequences on those who perpetrate it. In the city of Los Angeles, by far the largest of L.A. County’s 88 municipalities, violent crime is up 12 percent since 2020, with homicides up 18 percent.

An uninformed view of the property crime numbers is less bleak; it’s up just 1 percent over the same period. But the informed reader knows this number reflects only those crimes reported to the police, and in Los Angeles, as in every other city where progressive prosecutors have set about emptying the jails and prisons, many victims of property crimes simply don’t bother to call the police, for they know it will take hours for the officers to arrive and that little or nothing will be done to identify and arrest the culprits.

But rare is the man so blasé about having his car stolen that he does not report its loss, so the auto theft numbers provide what may be a more accurate picture of the trend in property crimes. In Los Angeles, auto theft is up 44 percent since 2020, prompting Gascón to issue his farcical admonishment to lock your car and not leave a spare key in it. He also advises to park in a well-lit area, oblivious to the fact that for some Angelenos the nearest well-lit area may be miles away because the local hoodlums, among whom are many who would be in jail but for his policies, have shot out all the streetlights.

Gascón is now facing a recall effort, the second one attempted after the first fell short of obtaining a sufficient number of signatures. Crime and disorder now so weigh on the minds of L.A. County residents that 33 city councils within the county, including those in such well-heeled, leafy burgs as Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach, and Palos Verdes Estates, have passed no-confidence resolutions on Gascón and his failed policies.

Why is this man smiling?

Predictably coming to Gascón’s rescue, like a mother to a threatened child, is the Los Angeles Times, which endorsed his election and has run several stories and opinion pieces (to the extent there is a difference) minimizing his role in rising crime, the latest of which ran on April 1 under the headline, “Is it fair to blame Gascón alone for L.A.’s violent crime surge? Here’s what the data show.”

The story, by Times staff writer James Queally, is a masterpiece in the technique, so common in today’s journalism, of providing accurate data while conveying a misleading message. “Proponents of the effort to recall Gascón,” he writes, “have accused him of creating a ‘pro-criminal paradise’ and causing a crime spike through policies aimed at reducing mass incarceration, including his refusal to try juveniles as adults, prosecute certain misdemeanors or file most sentencing enhancements.” He continues:

But an analysis of the L.A. County district attorney’s office filing rates, homicide solve rates and crime statistics paints a far more complicated picture of the surge in violence than the one some of Gascón’s enemies have sketched.

True enough. No one well versed in the issues would claim Gascón, or any prosecutor, is the sole factor influencing crime rates. But then comes the journalistic sleight of hand. Queally cites data that shows Gascón’s office has filed felony charges at a rate similar to that of his predecessor, as if to suggest filing rates are the only measures by which a prosecutor should be judged. Just as important, if not more so, is the expectation among criminals of a lengthy prison sentence should they be convicted of a serious crime. Many people would be surprised to learn that to some criminals the prospect of a few months in the county jail, or even of a few years in state prison, is not a deterrent to their predatory habits. Indeed, to some gang members a stretch in jail or prison is a badge of honor, lending to their prestige among their peers.

Picking up the pieces of a civilization that no longer exists.

It is in this regard that Gascón is at once both a symptom of the current crime wave and, yes, a cause of it. The anti-police hysteria that engulfed the country following George Floyd’s death helped bring Gascón into office, but it also so demoralized America’s cops that few are willing to risk their lives and livelihoods by doing the type of proactive police work that stemmed the crime wave of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In Los Angeles, arrests are down 31 percent from two years ago; even the most aggressive of prosecutors can’t stem a crime wave if the police aren’t bringing lawbreakers to court. Pair an unmotivated police force with a prosecutor of Gascón’s inclinations and you have a recipe for unchecked crime.

Perhaps chastened by the latest recall effort, Gascón has displayed heretofore unseen flexibility on some of his policies, for example backtracking on his ludicrous decision to prosecute in juvenile court the case of a 26-year-old transgender woman who, as male just short of his 18th birthday, sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl in the bathroom of a Palmdale restaurant.

However much he backtracks, it may not be enough to avoid a recall. Recall organizers say they have collected 200,000 of the 567,000 signatures they need to put the matter to a vote. Even George Soros may not be able to save him now.

What Price 'Compliance'?

We are witnessing a radical change in the ethos of law enforcement. It is not a good one. I joined the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1980s, which of course makes me a dinosaur to my younger peers. So be it. I would sooner face extinction than silently accept the degradation of an honorable profession.

There was a time when police work was at least somewhat insulated from the whims of fashionable opinion. When called to the scene of an alleged violation of the law, a cop had to answer a few simple questions before taking action: 1) Has the law in fact been broken? 2) If so, can I identify and locate the lawbreaker? 3) Is the public best served by an immediate arrest? If the answer to all three questions was yes, the lawbreaker would be taken in to stand before the bar of justice. If he resisted that effort, it was understood that reasonable force could and should be used to achieve the end.

Today, the decision process is much more complicated. If a cop answers the three questions in the affirmative, he must then ask himself others: 1) What is the ethnicity, political affiliation, or special victim status of the person who has broken the law? 2) What exemptions to the law, official or unofficial, have been granted to persons of this ethnicity, political affiliation, or special victim status? 3) What is the likelihood the lawbreaker will resist arrest? 4) What will be the consequences for me should the lawbreaker resist and I use force against him?

But is the suspect "special"?

To no one’s surprise, these added considerations have inhibited the police and emboldened criminals, with the expected result of an increase in crime across the country. But this doesn’t mean the police today are spending their time idly. The Covid pandemic has offered some of them opportunities to take risk-free action against people uncloaked with any special "protected" status and the immunities attached thereto, namely, those who resist or even dare to question the state-approved measures concocted to deal with the virus.

Witness the extent to which the authorities in Australia and New Zealand went in their naïve attempt to isolate themselves from Covid. They barred all foreign visitors, repeatedly locked down their largest cities for extended periods, and forcibly quarantined people even suspected of having Covid. Reflecting Australia’s origins as a British penal colony, both it and New Zealand have at times resembled vast prisons. New Zealand commandeered dozens of hotels for use as “Managed Isolation and Quarantine” facilities, while Australia built a network of quarantine camps and gave them a name even George Orwell might have envied for its veiled, bureaucratic menace: the “Centres for National Resilience.” Pressed into service to enforce these rules were the police, and woe to those who resisted.

Closer to home, we haven’t seen people forcibly confined to Covid camps, at least not yet, but we have seen countless examples of the police acting absurdly while enforcing anti-Covid measures. In the early days of the pandemic I wrote about some of the more egregious examples from Southern California alone: San Diego County sheriff’s deputies ticketing people for watching a sunset from their cars, police in Manhattan Beach ticketing a surfer on an otherwise deserted beach, and in perhaps the most farcical display of all, Los Angeles County lifeguards and sheriff’s deputies using two boats to chase down and arrest a lone paddle boarder near the Malibu pier.

We are told the Covid pandemic is now subsiding. Welcome news, certainly, but what is not subsiding, and what may prove to be more pernicious in the long run than the virus itself, is the arrogation of power to government functionaries—both elected and unelected—who see themselves as qualified to direct our daily lives (for our own good, of course).

What can we make of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation this week of the Emergencies Act in his effort to crush that country’s truckers’ protest? Canadian regulations have demanded Covid vaccines for those entering the country, including truckers, some significant number of whom have objected and noisily brought their grievances to the seat of government in Ottawa. Their protest would seem to be protected speech under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but Trudeau would have it otherwise. The protesters’ views, he says, are “unacceptable.”

One can see the danger here. When a head of state pronounces a given opinion as anathema, there may be an expectation, either implicit or explicit, that his subordinates in the apparatus of that state exert themselves to extinguish any outward displays of the heretical opinion. For police officers, vested with the authority to deny freedom to their fellow citizens, and indeed under certain circumstances to take their very lives, the need for a finely calibrated moral compass cannot be overstated.

Or go to jail, as the case may be.

One need not be an actual participant in the protest to bring down the heel of the government boot. On Feb. 8, police in Ottawa detained and manhandled a diminutive, pajama-clad great grandfather for the crime of beeping his horn in support of the truckers’ protest.

In any Western democracy where freedom of speech is guaranteed, a challenge for the police confronting protesters is deciding when—or if—to act when legitimate protest crosses the line into illegality. A police officer may witness a technical violation of the law, but before taking enforcement action he must ask himself, “Then what?”

In a sane world, the “what” that would follow a disgrace like the public abuse of a harmless pensioner would be discipline for the offending police officers and an apology to the victim accompanied by a settlement check. As this is not a sane world, Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act is a warning to the protesting truckers and their sympathizers: You’re next, and you can’t stop us.

It has been reported that the late actor Ron Silver, while attending Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, was at first displeased at the sight of military jets flying in salute over Washington, D.C. Still a liberal at the time (9/11 would change that), he found the display offensive. Reflecting on the fact that Bill Clinton was now in charge, Silver is said to have remarked, “Those are our planes now.”

So it is with the police. For many years leftists have made no secret of their loathing for the police, but now they relish the chance to sic the cops on those whose views are “unacceptable.” If Trudeau gets away with crushing dissent through his fabricated “emergency,” how long before his tactics are emulated on this side of the border? Covid cases may be decreasing and restrictions loosening across much of America, but there are those among us who will not willingly relinquish the power Covid has allowed them to seize. The next pandemic, the next emergency, the next “crisis” that calls for immediate if not necessarily legally grounded action is as near as Justin Trudeau or someone of his ilk can conjure it. When that happens, where will the police stand?

Better to be Tried by Twelve than Carried by Six

Among the hundreds of arrests I’ve made in almost 40 years of police work, I can think of only one I regret. It happened in 1984, give or take a year, a time of increasing violence in Los Angeles, especially South-Central L.A., where I was working as a patrol officer. In the division I was assigned, as in those nearby, we saw two or three murders a week and twice as many non-fatal shootings, and we were drilled constantly on the need to be proactive and get guns off the streets.

The traffic stop that led to the arrest was legally justified, as was the search that turned up the loaded handgun under the driver’s seat. The man had violated the law and I had caught him at it fair and square, yet even now, all these years later, I still regret it.

The man was not a gang member, or any type of criminal at all, for that matter. He was a working man in his 20’s, about the same age as me at the time, and his job required him to take cash receipts to the bank at the end of his shift. He was every bit as aware of the crime problem in the area as I was, if not more so, and he had started carrying a revolver in his car as a precaution against robbery, a crime that occurred even more frequently than shootings.

Vigil for Michelle Go, killed in a Times Square subway station by being shoved in front of a train by a "mentally ill" homeless man.

But at the time I was too young and inexperienced to realize that even though everything about the arrest was 100 percent legal, it drew very near to the line of being immoral. Neither the man nor his gun posed a threat to anyone save for someone seeking to rob him of the money entrusted to him by his employer, and if he had shot some thug trying to do just that, my colleagues and I would have celebrated it. Still, I made the arrest and got a gun off the street. Were I to meet the man today, I would apologize to him. I pray his ordeal was brief and minimally unpleasant.

I have thought of that man often while watching the news recently. We have been told of defenseless women being killed by men whose freedom to roam the streets and commit acts of cruel depravity is testament to the moral inversion that has been evident for years but lately become obvious to all but the most nakedly partisan “criminal justice reformers.” These “reformers” peddle the childish fantasy that we would all be safer if only we treated criminals more kindly. The crime trends of the last thirty years would belie this fantasy, but here we are. Apparently, some lessons need to be re-learned with each generation, and this generation’s education comes at the price of innocent lives

At about 5 a.m. on Jan. 13, 70-year-old Sandra Shells was the victim of an unprovoked attack at a bus stop near the L.A. County-USC Medical Center. A man knocked her to the ground, causing her to strike her head on the sidewalk. She died three days later in the hospital where she had worked as a nurse for 38 years. A homeless man, Kerry Bell, has been arrested and charged with Shells’s murder.

The suspect in Brianna Kupfer's murder: also "mentally ill."

Later on Jan. 13, Brianna Kupfer, 24, was working alone at a furniture store in Los Angeles when she sent a text message to a friend saying she was getting a “bad vibe” from a man who had entered. A customer entered the store about twenty minutes later and found Kupfer on the floor, stabbed to death. A man with a "history of mental illness," identified as Shawn Laval Smith, has been arrested for her murder.

On Jan. 15, Michelle Go, 40, was in New York’s Times Square subway station when, in another unprovoked attack, she was shoved into the path of an oncoming train. She died, and Martial Simon, 61, has been arrested and charged with her murder.

All three of these accused killers have been described as suffering from mental illness in the past, and all of them have criminal histories sufficiently opulent to raise the question of why, after their repeated demonstrations of violent, antisocial behavior, were they not confined somewhere safely away from their unwary victims.

My long career in police work has offered me a vantage point from which to view the arc of the criminal-justice pendulum as it has swung from leniency for criminals in the early ‘80s to harsh punishment in the ‘90s and then back again, with the current fashion of treating criminals as victims and victims as irrelevant pawns in the “progressive” effort to empty the nation’s prisons and jails. Will the deaths of these three women, added to the already widespread worries over rising crime, cause the pendulum to reverse course once again?

Perhaps, but the pendulum’s mass is great and its inertia powerful. Even if the public reached a consensus this very day that they have had enough with the soft-on-crime policies now in place in so many cities, so entrenched are the people who have brought those policies about that it will take years to fully reverse course to the point that violent crime will start trending downward once again. In the meantime, how can the law-abiding citizen protect himself?

There is an adage among cops that goes, “It’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.” In other words, it’s better to protect yourself and take a chance on being charged with a crime than it is to be killed through your hesitancy to act. Which brings me to the man I arrested years ago for having a gun in his car. He surely made the same kind of risk-reward calculation, reasoning that it was more prudent to carry the gun illegally and risk arrest than to face a robbery without it and risk death.

In Los Angeles, where it’s nearly impossible to obtain a concealed-carry license, how many people are weighing this very decision right now? The neighborhood where Brianna Kupfer was killed was once considered safe, but the nearby map, taken from the LAPD’s crime-mapping website, shows crimes reported to the police in the area since Aug. 1 of last year. The abundance of symbols on the map reveal the area is anything but safe, even apart from Brianna Kupfer's murder.

The same observation can be made elsewhere. In Chicago, for example, where a CCW license is also all but unobtainable, people are long accustomed to violent crime on the city’s south and west sides, but today shootings, robberies, and carjackings are common in such neighborhoods as the Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast, and the Magnificent Mile. How many otherwise law-abiding Chicagoans have decided to carry guns illegally rather than risk falling victim to the ongoing crime wave?

But be warned. Yes, it’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six, but the risk of facing criminal charges after using deadly force in self-defense has never been greater. Los Angeles district attorney George Gascón would gleefully charge someone who acted even in obvious self-defense if the politics of the situation demanded it, which is to say if the racial calculus met certain criteria. The same is true of Kim Foxx in Chicago, Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, and any of the other “progressive” prosecutors holding office across the country

Consider what the response would have been had Brianna Kupfer, after sending the ominous text message to her friend, had armed herself with a gun and shot her assailant at the first sign of his knife. Today in some quarters she would be branded as a privileged white girl from Pacific Palisades who fired out of inordinate fear of a black man innocently shopping for furniture. Absent video of the man assaulting her, Gascón would likely have charged her.

But she would be alive, which is better than what actually happened. Fellow citizens, consider the risks, and act accordingly.

Sowing the Crime Wind, Reaping the Whirlwind

Who would have thought she was doing something dangerous? The young mother was returning home from a late afternoon walk on Nov. 28, pushing her infant child in a stroller. She opened the security gate in front of her home in the upscale Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, taking no notice of the two men in the car stopped across the street. Before she could close the gate and enter her home, the two men followed her into her yard and robbed her of her backpack and diaper bag before escaping. Neither the woman nor her child was injured.

Not as fortunate was Southern California philanthropist Jaqueline Avant, 81, who in the early morning of Dec. 1 was murdered in her Beverly Hills home. Named as the suspect was Aariel Maynor, 29, a recent parolee from the California prison where he had served a four-year sentence for robbery. Maynor was arrested by LAPD officers after he shot himself in the foot during a second home invasion in the Hollywood Hills, a few miles from the Avant crime scene.

We're no angels.

And out in the equally tony neighborhoods of West Los Angeles, residents are worried over a spate of similar crimes. The map at right, taken from the LAPD’s crime mapping website, shows the robberies, burglaries, and assaults reported across some of the city’s most monied real estate over the last four weeks. In two of the more recent examples, a man was injured and robbed outside a Brentwood hotel early Monday morning, and on Saturday evening, a holiday party in Pacific Palisades was invaded by two armed men who relieved guests of jewelry, iPhones, and an Apple watch.

If the Los Angeles Times account of the Pacific Palisades robbery is to be believed (not necessarily to be taken for granted), the LAPD’s response to the incident left much to be desired. The suspects had fled before police arrived, which is unsurprising, but as of the time the story ran, no detective had collected the security video from the home or even contacted the victims. The suspects, reassured no great effort is being expended to identify and apprehend them, can be expected to hit again.

Also expected to resume their predatory ways are the 14 suspects arrested in connection with a recent series of smash-and-grab robberies in Los Angeles, all of whom were released on little or no bail. Three of the suspects, two adults and a juvenile, were arrested after a car chase into South L.A. The two adults, despite their criminal records, were released without bail.

All of which raises an important question: If police and prosecutors are impotent in addressing surging crime, what is a citizen’s best response when confronted by a robber or home invader? The LAPD, like most police agencies, advocates compliance. “If you are being robbed,” reads the Community Alert Notification, “do not resist the robbery suspects; cooperate and comply with their demands. Be a good witness.” The bulletin also advises against following the suspects. “Leave the job of catching the suspect to the police,” it says.

It's great to get paid.

For most people this is sound advice, even if the police rarely catch the culprits. Few among us are prepared, mentally or physically, to resist an armed attack, and prudence dictates abandoning your valuables rather than risking your life. Recent statistics, however, suggest some Americans may prefer not to meekly surrender to those who would victimize them. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System recorded 187,585 inquiries for prospective gun purchasers on Black Friday alone, bringing 2021’s total to more than 687,000, slightly behind 2020’s record total.

Obtaining a weapon, though, is the easiest part of preparing for self-defense. Indeed, the presence of a gun can be harmful if one lacks the training, awareness, and mental attitude required to use it when the time comes. A gun in an untrained hand can quickly be turned against its owner. Equally important is knowledge of the laws regarding self-defense. And remember that even the most technically lawful exercise of self-defense can still subject a person to an ordeal in the justice system if the incident takes on political overtones (cf. Rittenhouse, Kyle).

Police officers are often asked when it is permissible to shoot someone in self-defense. The answer is it depends, both on the circumstances and the law in your particular state. As a general rule, deadly force can be used to defend against an attack likely to cause death or serious bodily injury. A stranger approaching while wielding a deadly weapon can in most cases be presumed to be manifesting malign intent, and one need not wait to be shot, stabbed, or clubbed before firing in self-defense.

Some may be surprised that California, with its reliably leftist politics, has a version of the “castle doctrine” on the books. California Penal Code section 198.5, enacted in 1984, grants the presumption of reasonable fear to someone using deadly force against a home intruder. Thus even an unarmed burglar can lawfully be shot by a resident, who need not later prove he was in fear for his safety. Laws in other states differ, so learn the ones where you live before arming yourself for protection. The better firearms training courses include instruction on the laws of self-defense.

No affirmative duty to be a victim.

Outside the home things are trickier and must be examined case by case. The young mother mentioned above, for example, would have been justified in drawing a gun on seeing the two robbers enter her yard, this despite the fact neither of them appeared to be armed. And if they failed to retreat at the sight of her gun, she may have been justified in shooting them. (And how much more satisfying viewing the video would be if she had?)

Keep in mind she was a lone woman with her infant child; a man, certainly one without a child in tow, might not be allowed similar latitude in the same circumstances. This is especially so in Los Angeles, where district attorney George Gascón’s sympathies lie more with criminal suspects than with crime victims.

We are daily presented with evidence that some people across the country are undeterred from their predations by the diminishing prospect of arrest and punishment, leaving to the law-abiding a choice between acquiescence and resistance. If you are among those who have armed themselves, get trained in the safe and effective use of your weapon and prepare mentally for the day you may have to defend yourself or someone else. If you’re going to be in the news, let it be as a defender, not as a victim.