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.
A blast from the past with this video we created in the early 90s while I was privileged to lead the then-separate NYC Transit Police Department. It was one of the weekly messages to help motivate the cops — and drive public support of the police. A poignant message still today. pic.twitter.com/6bcoD79v6Y
— Bill Bratton (@CommissBratton) July 21, 2022
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 HeyJackass.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last January, I wrote a piece here on the Pipeline called “When the Sheepdogs Become the Sheep.” In that piece I lamented the ongoing transformation of America’s police officers from crime fighters to Covid code enforcers. Alas, ten months later, that transformation is coming nearer to completion.
There is a growing chasm among two distinct groups of police officers: those who genuinely invest themselves in the fight against crime, whether as a patrol cop or a detective, and those who seek to promote up the ranks to the higher levels in their departments. A Venn diagram of these groups would show a miniscule intersection of the two circles, and recent events will have that intersection grow smaller still.
Among the cops actually engaged in police work, political considerations have no role in their decisions on whom to stop, detain, or arrest. This is not to say every law violator who comes to a police officer’s notice should be arrested and hauled into court. Every good cop knows the value of discretion. Sometimes there are more serious problems that demand his time, or there may be dividends paid in the future when someone is given a pass for some minor violation.
But the cop interested in promotion sees things differently. He conducts himself so as to please his superiors, who like himself in most cases have their eyes on achieving the next rank. Sad to say, but the interests of those superiors are not necessarily aligned with those of the citizens in the areas they serve. In most American cities, the typical commanding officer of a police station has but one short-term daily goal: to keep his phone from ringing.
This is of course in the service of his long-term goal, which is to promote to the next rank. To those unfamiliar with the inner workings of a police department this may seem strange. Surely, you might assume, promotions are achieved through the reduction of crime in one’s area of responsibility. This is not always the case. More often, promotions are won by minimizing problems for the people on the tiers above your own, i.e., by making sure their phones do not ring.
In any police department there is a stratification, a bright line—it’s usually at the rank of sergeant or lieutenant—at which most cops below it are in the first group and most above it are in the second. The higher one goes in the department, the more removed one gets from the grime and tumult of actual police work.
Today, every police executive lives day and night in utter dread of that one phone call, the one that informs him a subordinate has been involved in an incident that soon will be blasted across television news programs and social media, bringing protesters and even rioters to the steps of police headquarters, city hall, and points beyond. It is these incidents that must be avoided, even if at the cost of rising crime.
If you doubt this, consider the city of Minneapolis, on which the nation’s attention was focused following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Floyd’s death caused panic and consternation throughout the city’s government, with politicians and cops at the higher ranks ever so desperately seeking ways to avoid sharing blame for it.
Since former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for killing Floyd, what news has the typical American heard out of Minneapolis? None. The 16 percent increase in homicides over last year, the 26 percent increase in shooting injuries, the 5 percent increase in robberies, none of these grim statistics has gripped the national attention in a way even close to the way the death of a drug-addicted career criminal did. More death and bloodshed? More robberies? Blame it all on the pandemic; it’s nothing to worry about as long as the satellite trucks aren’t parked in front of police headquarters and the reporters aren’t out there stirring up the rabble.
America’s police officers are getting the message, and in most large cities proactive police work is a thing of the past. Yes, the police are still responding to radio calls. They’re still willing to put up the crime-scene tape and collect the shell casings at a murder scene while waiting for the coroner to haul the body away, and if they figure out who did the killing, they’re happy to arrest him as long as he doesn’t run or fight or do anything else that will make them look bad on Twitter. But when it comes to looking for the guy carrying the gun and stopping him before he does the killing, forget about it; there is no upside to that kind of police work anymore.
America’s police departments, their ranks already shrinking due to recent events, are being diminished further by the imposition of Covid vaccine mandates in many cities. In Chicago, for example, more than 30 percent of the police officers have thus far failed to report their vaccination status as required under the new city policy, and 21 of them have been placed on no-pay status. Chicago is already suffering from high crime, so one shudders to imagine what would happen if a third of its police department is dismissed for failing to get vaccinated. (The sheriffs in three counties near Chicago have said their deputies would not be sent to assist should the need arise).
Some may be surprised to learn that in most cases the police do not have an affirmative duty to protect the public or any individual. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in Castle Rock v. Gonzales, that police officers in Castle Rock, Colorado, could not be held liable for failing to enforce a restraining order, despite the fact that the failure led to the murder of three children.
So, what is the law-abiding citizen to do in the face of rising crime and retreating police? I recommend the methods adopted by the Eugene, Ore., man described in this news story, who when a burglar entered his apartment in the small hours of Oct. 18, protected his companion and his home as the law allows. Now there is one less burglar to worry the citizens of Eugene, and the town is that much safer for it. If we could but see more stories like this every day, the crime problem would soon take care of itself.
There is none so blind, goes the old saw, as he who does not want to see. Witness the intellectual contortions inspired by the FBI’s recent release of crime data for 2020. Murders rose 30 percent over 2019’s figures, the largest single-year increase since the FBI began compiling the data 60 years ago. There were 21,570 people murdered in the United States last year, almost 5,000 more than the previous year.
Our sophisticated betters in the media are at pains to explain this, attributing this horrifying surge in bloodshed to the Covid pandemic, poverty, and, naturally, the ubiquity of guns in our culture. Summing up perfectly the attitudes of east-coats elites was James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, who was cited in the Washington Post. The year 2020 was a “unique situation,” he said. He attributed the rise in homicides, as paraphrased by the Post, to “a confluence of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, conflicts over politics and race and people just generally having too much free time.”
One assumes Mr. Fox’s views on the matter are more complex than reported. Or does he really believe people with too much free time are more disposed to homicide than others? “I don’t want to minimize what’s happened,” he told the Post. “I just don’t want people to believe that the sky is falling and that this is a permanent” trend. He added that even with 2020’s surge in killings, the situation is less dire than that experienced during the crack cocaine epidemic of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. This is akin to saying people who have experienced the disaster of a 6.5 earthquake should be comforted that it wasn’t as bad as the bigger one 30 years ago.
And of course there were those who were quick to assign blame for the bloodshed to guns. John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, was quoted in the same Washington Post story. “This jump in murders,” he said, “is just the latest proof that we are experiencing a gun violence epidemic within the Covid pandemic. This death spiral will continue until we stem the flow of illegal guns and invest in proven intervention programs.”
Mr. Feinblatt ignores the fact that a gun is “violent” only when someone chooses to pick it up and put it to violent use. If the availability of guns is truly the key factor in homicides, perhaps Mr. Feinblatt can explain why the guns-per-capita data do not track with the murder rates in many states. The Hunting Mark website reports that Wyoming has more guns per capita than any other state, yet it’s near the bottom on a list of states and territories ranked by murder rate. What makes people in Wyoming so much less violent than those in the District of Columbia, which is second on the list of guns per capita but first in homicides? What about Louisiana, which has the highest murder rate yet is number 15 in gun ownership? And how would Mr. Feinblatt explain New Hampshire, which ranks fourth in gun ownership but 41st in homicides? Clearly there are other, far more significant factors at play here than the availability of guns.
What many in the media are loath to admit is that the rhetorical attacks on policing, which were well underway for years but reached a peak after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last year, have sapped the will of the street police officers charged with going out each day and arresting lawbreakers. In those neighborhoods most affected by crime, police officers tend to know who is responsible for it and devote most of their attention to these chronic offenders. But today, if an officer spots a gang member he suspects is carrying a gun, the officer knows if he attempts to stop the man it may result in a foot chase, a wrestling match, or even a shooting.
It's not the physical dangers inherent in these outcomes the officer finds daunting, it is the potential aftermath if things result in anything other than a textbook outcome, one free of injury or even offense to the suspect, especially if the racial calculus in the encounter tips a certain way. No cop wants to play the villain in the next viral YouTube video, a genuine risk if a stop goes awry. No matter how unblemished the officer's record or how lengthy the suspect’s rap sheet, people will stampede in judgment against the cop while lionizing the criminal.
Criminals know this as well as the cops do and they respond accordingly. Absent any internal moral controls, they are restrained from their predations only by the risk of being arrested and imprisoned. When those risks are minimized as they have been in recent years, more crime will follow as night follows day.
It is the very people our educated elites purport to champion who suffer most from this. Blacks are just 13 percent of America’s population yet were 55 percent of 2020’s murder victims, a stable figure even as murder rates have risen and fallen over the years. This is acceptable to those who work themselves into a lather over every perceived instance of police abuse yet stand mute as the black bodies pile up in our country’s morgues.
It is politics that has led us here, the poisonous brand of racial politics to be precise, as our more craven politicos seek advantage in parroting the mantras of the professionally and perpetually aggrieved, and too many others refuse to oppose them for fear of the mob. Yes, things are not as bad as they were 30 years ago, but dare we be satisfied with this when the degree of success or failure is measured in human lives?
It is a cliché to say that one first must correctly diagnose a problem to solve it. Let’s cliché:
Climate Change is not about climate. Covid lockdowns, masks and vaccines are not about a virus. Critical Race Theory is not about race. BLM is not about Black lives. Antifa is not about antifascism.
These are about culture; the only culture that has succeeded over the past millennium, the cultures and subcultures that have not, and the members of those cultures that hate our success – or are moving here to take advantage of it. (Illegal immigration isn’t about immigration; it’s about emigration. From failed cultures.)
By succeeding so completely where all others have not, Western civilization has made itself their target. In refusing to address the current pathologies as cultural, we are playing a game using rules by which we cannot win, a game different from the war waged on us and our success by our enemies: No one ever is going to win an argument over the immutable – and irrelevant – characteristics of race and sex. So why play?
It is perhaps ironic that the superiority of our successful culture has created and distributed technology to less-successful cultures showing not only that they have failed, but that they have failed so comprehensively that they may never be able to catch-up.
To paraphrase, “We are all living The Camp of the Saints now.”
“Climate change” is unsupported by facts or evidence; even the U.N. says it’s about re-ordering the global economy (i.e. Marxism), and not the climate.
Covid was (is) about grabbing power; why else the constant lies from Fauci, the CDC, NIH, the MSM and the DNC, while those “leading” us against the virus were unmasked at ball games, non-social-distancing at fancy restaurants and hair salons closed to the rest of us, and vacationing in Florida when we couldn’t get on airplanes?
Critical Race Theory is about forcing a successful culture to adapt to an appallingly, seemingly intentionally, unsuccessful culture. It has nothing to do with race other than the success of the racialists among us making bank on destroying their communities. If Blacks always have been oppressed, explain Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr, Ben Carson, Colin Powell, Andy Young, Dick Parsons, Barack Obama. If whites always have been the oppressor, explain why the majority of welfare beneficiaries are white.
BLM? Looking at the subculture of African Americans we find that the incidence of illegitimacy was lower and the rate-of-entry to the middle class higher (i.e. a successful culture) before welfare than after. Paying people not to work, giving one an unearned living standard, kids never seeing Dad go to work does not capture creativity, perseverance and imagination or create a work ethic, leading directly to the failed subculture of the inner-city ghetto and to BLM, a subculture convinced that its members cannot succeed – so they’re killing each other and demanding we both celebrate and imitate their culture.
Who convinced African Americans of their inability to compete? The same cohort that has owned public education for 75 years and puts the worst schools and teachers in the inner city because that’s how much they care about African Americans. The same cohort running BLM, believing that a culture based on the always-failed Marxism can succeed. This time. If it’s done right. These “leaders” have indoctrinated three generations to a culture that only succeeds in failure and death. So they are getting failure and death.
Antifa? Nothing but a bunch of opportunistic, fascist thugs that any confident culture would crush.
Things will – can – only get worse until and unless we address them correctly.
Were I an educated member of a failed culture, say, China, that never invented glass (if you ever have wondered why no craters on the moon have Chinese names, this is why) but that last century murdered as many as 80,000,000 of its own and now cannot move forward without buying food from, and stealing the money and progress of, the West, or a member of a Third World culture practicing authoritarian socialism, I’d demand of my leadership what we once demanded in the West: honesty, the Rule of Law and capitalism. Because history proves that these – and only these – can create a successful culture.
Now that we know what is driving these pathologies, we need to be willing to stand up in the face of this nonsense: this isn’t about race, so stop. This isn’t about climate, immigration or a virus, so stop. Then enforcing “Stop” as hard as is necessary to end this attack on our culture – which we also call “civilization.”
We need to return to national confidence and assimilation, for confidence in and assimilation to our uniquely successful culture – which we required of our own and of immigrants from our founding until the 1960s – will lift all boats, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin, etc.
If we want to help the rest of the world, rather than invading it or subsidizing socialism, we should subsidize success: the Rule of Law and capitalism. And quit yammering about the idiocy of Climate Change, the nonsense of still-prevalent racism, and the anti-science lies of our “leaders,” locking down the world only to enhance their quest for totalitarian power at the expense of our liberty and prosperity.
Success – succeeds. Failure – fails. Culture is what our national division is about. It cannot be healed by accepting, prolonging or accelerating failed cultural choices. Acknowledge the reasons for success – and demand them. Acknowledge the reasons for failure – and stop making excuses for them.
Continuing to engage racists about race, climatists about climate, fascists about fascism, and liars about disease is counterproductive. The issue is culture, and it is on that field that must confront, and defeat, them.