The Decline and Fall of the Blue Wall

For a view of civil society’s steady unraveling, few professions offer a better vantage point than that of the police officer. Regardless of how someone may have arrived at a crisis, whether by his own self-destructive impulses or the cruel predations of another, it is the cop who is expected to respond and begin the process of making things right.

Speaking as someone who has spent more than 40 years in the trade, I acknowledge that a police officer’s arrival at the scene of some misfortune is not in every case a blessing to all involved. The amount of help a cop can offer is circumscribed by the available resources in his community, which in most places are limited. And when it comes to dealing with lawbreakers, the cop on the street is merely the usher into a system whose many components are intended to mesh together and deliver justice. For the crime victim, this means seeing the guilty punished; for the perpetrator, it means a sentence sufficient to deter further crime while allowing for the possibility of rehabilitation.

That’s the theory, anyway.

For the cop on the street, the knowledge that reality only occasionally conforms with the theory can be dispiriting, but he knows the pursuit of the ideal cannot be abandoned for inconsistent success. The fight goes on, no matter how dim the prospects.

Or so it was not so long ago. For most of my career, even as crime surged in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, as the bodies piled up in the morgues and it seemed America’s cities were in irreversible decline, we who worked the streets could find strength in the knowledge that among the political and media elites there was still a desire for improvement if only a way to achieve it could be found.

And a way was found. Developments in law enforcement such as those instituted by the New York Police Department under William Bratton proved that, as Bratton himself is fond of saying, “Cops count.” In 1990, the NYPD investigated a horrifying 2,245 murders. In ten years the number had been reduced to 649, and in 2017 the figure dropped below 300 for the first time since 1951, a remarkable achievement in a city of 8 million people. Cops found great satisfaction in bringing this about.

Now murder and a generalized disorder are again on the rise, in New York City and many other places. But, unlike in the ‘90s, when there was broad societal agreement that something needed to be done to stem the bloodshed, today’s elites turn a blind eye to the chaos on America’s streets in the name of “social justice” and “equity,” terms used to obscure the fact that a disproportionate number among certain ethnicities are committing the majority of these crimes, and that consistent enforcement of the law would necessarily result in a similarly disproportionate number among those same ethnicities going to jail or prison.

And we can’t have that.

So the cop on the street, faced with this escalation of disorder, is left to wonder what he is supposed to do about it. In years past, he was told to go out and find the shooters, robbers, burglars, and car thieves inflicting themselves on their law-abiding neighbors and, if the provable facts allowed, arrest them. Today, a cop who happens upon someone wanted for a crime, or whom he suspects is unlawfully carrying a gun, confronts the suspect at his peril.

Not merely the physical peril posed by a fight or a shooting, for which the cop has trained, but the peril to his and his family’s future should the arrest unfold in anything but a manner preferred by the elites who hold him in contempt. “If I try to stop him,” the cop thinks, “I may have to chase him, and if I chase him, I may have to hit him or, God forbid, shoot him, either of which will be judged by people who seldom if ever have had to make such fateful decisions.” In any violent encounter on the street, especially those in which the racial calculus attracts media attention, the cop knows there is at least some chance that it is he who will be punished for it and not the suspected lawbreaker.

Safer this way.

With this in mind, in ever more instances the cop elects to go on his way and allow the suspected lawbreaker to do likewise. In short, the risk-reward calculations favor the criminal, and the results are unsurprising and everywhere to behold.

There was a time I attributed this dynamic to naiveté among political and media elites, whose members I assumed simply could not fathom the depravity in the criminal element to which they are seldom if ever exposed. No more. So rapid has been the rise in crime since the summer of 2020, so inept has been the response from our elected leaders, so willfully blind to both have been the media, it can only be by design.

Call them Marcusians, neo-Marxists, neo-Jacobins, or whatever label you may choose, they have achieved dominance in every last institution shaping popular opinion in America and much of the world: politics, academia, the news media, and the entertainment industry. Recall for example that when Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008, he claimed to oppose same-sex marriage, an opinion considered uncontroversial at the time even among most Democrats. Imagine the uproar that would ensue if a candidate of either party espoused such a position today.

Yes, in the ensuing years a majority of Americans have come to accept same-sex marriage, but they are now being asked – no, compelled – to embrace the proposition that the very definitions of male and female are so amorphous and elastic as to include anyone who, despite his or her immutable biological makeup, fancies him- or herself to be one or the other or neither. And if you dare object, if you voice even the slightest skepticism about this madness, you will be silenced on social media, denounced in the press, hounded from your job, and evicted from your home.

Bursting with pride.

And soon, perhaps, you will be arrested for it. With the police now deterred from taking action against violent crime, police departments will see its most talented officers drift away to other types of employment or to agencies not yet in the grip of this modern thinking. They will be replaced not by crime fighters but by social justice warriors who will take it as their responsibility to squelch heretical opinion.

Do you think it can’t happen here? Witness the plight of one resident of our cultural mother country. Darren Brady, a 51-year-old veteran of the British army, was recently hauled into the dock for having caused someone “anxiety” by retweeting a meme showing four LGBT pride flags arranged so as to form a swastika. As if to prove the very point Brady was making, the Hampshire police came to Brady’s house and arrested him, handcuffs and all.

How long before such a scenario comes to pass here in the United States? The civil society continues to fray. In just a few short years, America’s cops have gone from being active opponents of societal breakdown to helpless spectators to it. The next step, as has already occurred in the United Kingdom, apparently, is their becoming active accomplices in it.

I’d rather die.

When the Sheepdogs Become the Sheep

What happens to crime fighters when the cost of the fight is too high? What happens when politicians find it in their best interests to ignore real crime, i.e., shootings, robberies, burglaries, and the like, and instead focus on violations of what we might call the Pandemic Penal Code?

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has taken it upon itself to crack down on so-called “super-spreader parties” taking place around the county as young people seek ways to socialize while bars and restaurants are shut down due to Covid-19 regulations. The department has deployed what some may consider an inordinate amount of resources to combat these parties.

Why inordinate? Like most big-city departments in the country, the L.A. Sheriff’s Department saw a drastic rise in homicides during 2020, logging 199 for the year compared to 145 the previous year. (Note that these numbers do not include statistics for the city of Los Angeles, which had 343 homicides as of Dec. 26.) On the list of priorities for any law enforcement agency, one would expect to find reduction in homicides placed somewhere above eradication of underground parties.

Dangerous desperadoes.

And, while the Sheriff’s Department doesn’t ordinarily take enforcement action within the city limits of Los Angeles, where the LAPD has responsibility, deputies have repeatedly broken up parties in LAPD territory. Some might applaud this expenditure of resources as valuable in the fight against Covid but, again, shouldn’t it be a question of priorities?

If the Sheriff’s Department is so keen on attacking problems within the jurisdiction of the LAPD, perhaps they should devote some of those party-hunters to the LAPD’s Southeast Division, which covers Watts and the surrounding areas of South L.A., and where the number of shooting victims is up 3,700 percent during the most recent four-week reporting period compared to the same period a year ago.

I single out the L.A. Sheriff’s Department only because I live in the Los Angeles media market, where anyone who watches the local news can’t help but be aware of stories like this one and this one, with scenes of docile party-goers herded about like so many sheep to the shearers.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials continued to crack down on coronavirus “super-spreader” events and underground parties over the weekend as COVID-19 cases soar, the agency announced Sunday.

The operation by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department’s Super-Spreader Task Force busted an underground event at 600 Block of West Manchester Avenue in South L.A. Saturday night and approximately 167 adults were cited for violating county health orders and released, sheriff’s officials said.

Another 50 people received warnings and were advised about the order, as well as COVID-19 health and safety measures, the agency said. Videos released by the agency Sunday showed dozens of masked people lined up against a wall outside a commercial building as officers escorted dozens more out of a building. Authorities did not elaborate on the event or whether any of the people they cited were arrested.

But the misplaced priorities are hardly unique to Los Angeles, or even to the United States. In Chicago, for example, where shootings and murders rose by 50 percent in 2020, politicians find it easier to enforce Covid-19 restrictions on otherwise law abiding people than to crack down on those responsible for all the violence. And in London, England, where crime has been rising steadily for five years, the Metropolitan Police recently mustered a large number of officers, a police dog, and a helicopter to raid a party being held in what they described as a “flagrant breach of Covid regulations.”

But perhaps nowhere have the police been as zealous in enforcing Covid restrictions as in Australia, where, according to Human Rights Watch, a pregnant woman was charged with “incitement” and arrested in front of her children for organizing an anti-lockdown protest on Facebook, another pregnant woman was forbidden from resting on a park bench during her government-allowed hour of outdoor exercise, and a woman with cerebral palsy was prevented from resting while out for a walk with her 70-year-old mother.

One may laugh at these excesses and think such deprivations could never happen here, in the Land of the Free, but recall that in the early days of the lockdown in California we saw a surfer fined $1,000 for daring to enter the water on an otherwise empty beach, people ticketed for sitting in their cars watching the sunset, and,  in what may still be the most farcical display of all, a lone paddleboarder off the coast of Malibu chased down and arrested with the help of not just one but two patrol boats.

It was during that early lockdown period that I happened to drive from Malibu to downtown Los Angeles, a journey that opened my eyes to the misplaced priorities among some in local law enforcement. The drive took me past miles and miles of beaches under sheriff’s department guard against the possibility someone might set foot on the sand or dip his toes in the Pacific.

But when I arrived in downtown Los Angeles I found things much as they have been for years, with homeless encampments lining the streets, their denizens free to mill about and do as they please, which in most cases is to indulge their various addictions and to deposit their various excretions in whatever public space they happen to occupy when the urge strikes.

Some lives matter.

But you see, enforcing the law against homeless people is difficult, as the “unhoused community” have become something like pets among Los Angeles politicos, few if any of whom are burdened with these encampments near their own homes. Surfers, paddleboarders, sunset watchers? They have no political patrons and must be brought to heel, for the good of all, of course.

During the summer’s riots following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, when rioters in cities across the country were excused from following the Covid precautions expected of the rest of us, we witnessed the display of police officers “taking a knee” in demonstrations of solidarity with the protesters, with one Massachusetts police chief taking the self-abasement to a humiliating level when, at the urging of the crowd, he lay face down on the steps outside his police station.

No super-spreading here.

Such political gestures won a measure of cheap grace from the crowds but did little to abate the violence, as there was little overlap between the peaceful protesters and those who busied themselves looting and burning. Worse, the kneeling and groveling reflected the division in police departments between the cops on the front lines battling rioters, those who would sooner take a bullet than a knee, and those in administrative posts who find value in theatrical gestures.

Sadly, it is the kneelers who run most police departments, reflecting the politics of those in the municipal governments they serve. They can’t make the others kneel (though some tried), but they can dictate their enforcement efforts. When fighting real crime becomes politically risky, they can justify their positions by enforcing lockdowns and related restrictions on ordinary people who for nearly a year have been conditioned to submit.

When the last of the sheepdogs have been turned into sheep, expect the wolves to rejoice and act accordingly.