Who You Gonna Call -- the Covid Cops?

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.

Just trying to keep the lid on things.

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.

Meanwhile, in Minneapolis...

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.

When Police Get Woke, Society Gets Broke

One of the blessings of growing older is, when tensions roil the social landscape, being able to look back on the troubled times of an earlier day and say, “Those tribulations I survived, these I shall also.” I am a Baby Boomer, born in the late ‘50s to a World War II Navy veteran and a stay-at-home mother, both of whom were conservative Republicans who did their best to usher their children through the tumult of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Nearly all of my friends growing up came from similar backgrounds, but we came of age as the Vietnam war came to its ignoble conclusion and as the Watergate scandal gripped the nation. It was a time when “questioning authority” was oh so fashionable among my generation, and, like nearly all of my friends, I rejected my parents’ conservatism and embraced liberalism, at least as the term was understood in, say, 1976.

I’m ashamed to admit it took some years to accept that my parents weren’t wrong about absolutely everything, and that the “authorities” I had so enthusiastically questioned and rejected had achieved that status for the simple virtue of having been correct. And I became a cog in the authority machine itself when I joined the Los Angeles Police Department after graduating from college, but even then it was only after a few years of patrolling the streets of L.A. that the scales fell from my eyes and I came to realize the liberalism I had embraced, far from improving the lives of those it purported to help, made them worse.

Los Angeles then.

I spent the greater part of my police career working in South Los Angeles, where I was confronted daily with the grim harvest of liberal policies that, however well intentioned in their origins, resulted in the dissolution of families and sent forth thousands of fatherless young men who, lacking guidance in the home, found it on the streets though membership in gangs like the Crips and the Bloods, both of which originated in Los Angeles and have since spread like cancer across the country.

The city’s gang culture brought horrific bloodshed to Los Angeles, most especially in South L.A. In 1976, the LAPD handled 517 murders. By 1980 the number had almost doubled, to 1,028, and when gang culture coalesced with the crack cocaine epidemic in the early ‘80s the result was even more explosive. It wasn’t until 1997 that the city’s murder total fell back below 700, and by 2010 the number was below 300, where it remained for ten years.

That reduction in violence was brought about largely through the efforts of police officers willing to go into the neighborhoods most affected by crime and confront those responsible for it. Yes, some of those confrontations were violent, and yes, it resulted in many black and Latino young men being arrested and sent to prison, as it was blacks and Latinos who committed 90 percent of the violent crime in Los Angeles, an uncomfortable but nonetheless persistent fact mirrored in any American city you can name.

There existed among police officers, in Los Angeles and elsewhere, an ethos that demanded we challenge the status quo that said violence and disorder were the inevitable byproducts of long overdue social transformations. These transformations were welcomed and applauded by the elites, but when a police officer sees a shooting victim take his last breath, when he sees the victim’s mother running down the street to see it too, he cares little for the opinions of elites fortunate enough to live and work safely distant from the violence they have fostered, and it arouses in him the will to act so as not to see such a scene repeated.

Or at least it used to.

L.A. now.

Since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, and most especially since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, police work has changed so radically as to be unrecognizable to those of us who worked the streets in the ‘80s and ‘90s. America’s police, already in retreat against the advancing woke mob, now recognize that their leaders have abandoned them and the battle against crime is no longer worth fighting.

But as demoralized as police officers are today, it is not they who are paying the heaviest price. If the Black Lives Matter movement has proved anything, it is that the only black lives that matter to its adherents are those few that are lost in confrontations with the police. The thousands upon thousands of others who die at the hands of their fellow blacks inspire no protests, no outrage, no calls for systematic changes, but rather are greeted with a blithe shrug of acceptance. The police, rendered inert by political overseers kowtowing to the mob, are now bystanders to the carnage, reduced to documenting murders while doing little to prevent them.

This is not an accident or an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise benign development. This is the aim of the modern left that now dominates the political, academic, and media classes who shriek to the skies whenever a police officer uses force against a member of some favored minority, but who stand mute when some member of that same minority murders another.

When police officers are no longer useful to fight genuine evils, they will be re-tasked to fight imaginary ones, as has in fact already occurred with cops enforcing mask mandates and other restrictions on liberties most Americans viewed as inviolable only a year ago. When this occurs – and the process is already well underway – those cops best suited to fighting violent crime will drift away from the profession and find employment elsewhere, to be replaced by the type of meek, enervated drones that reflect the political eunuchs ushering in this transformation.

This summer the country will experience violence at levels unseen in decades, and by the time it awakens from its woke torpor, there may be no one left who knows what to do about it.