There is a tone of panic in this recent Axios newsletter which should inspire a certain delight in every red-blooded American. It is, to be sure, inspired by a truly terrible event, the indefensible killing by Memphis police of a man named Tyre Nichols. But the true source of leftist panic is the realization that their ability to whip people (and particularly the business community) into a frenzy is waning.
Under the heading, "The shift toward silence," the newsletter's author gestures at the fact that, during the riots of the summer of 2020, which followed the death of George Floyd, nearly every major American company took a hardline position on the complex issues surrounding race and policing, many of them donating hundreds of thousands of dollars each in support of the "Defund the Police" movement among other questionable causes. But, laments Axios, their response has been more muted in the wake of Tyre Nichols' death. Here's just one of the examples:
The Business Roundtable, a coalition of CEOs from America's top companies, previously pushed for comprehensive police reform and in 2020 stated, “Corporate America cannot sit this one out." What they're saying, now: “We are disturbed by the brutality Mr. Nichols suffered and express our condolences to his family and community, and communities across the country grappling with senseless violence," a Business Roundtable spokesperson told Axios. "There's no public call to action, plan to reignite reform, and certainly no funding commitments."
Indeed, though one wonders how these would improve the situation. After all, the calls for action and reform of police training and tactics, as well as the corporate funding in the summer of 2020 didn't help Tyre Nichols escape death at the hands of five black men.
But why hasn't the corporate response been more righteously fulsome? The author (citing "experts") gives four suggestions: Power dynamics ("Companies are not facing public and internal pressure to make external statements"); Economic uncertainty ("Many tech companies have gutted their DEI departments in response to economic strains."); ESG pushback ("Recent pushback from activist investors and legislators at the state and federal levels have caused businesses to become more skittish on ESG initiatives."); and Fatigue.
Is the halo wearing off?
The first explanation merely raises the question. WHY aren't they facing pressure to use their resources to exert more pressure on others? But the other three do address the issue, though not quite for the reasons the author thinks. The economic situation really is more precarious today than in 2020, and not just in the tech sector. Consequently, businesses are having to work harder to bring in revenue, and they are more concerned about not alienating potential customers with ham-handed political statements.
Relatedly, there really has been pushback on ESG, the scheme whereby businesses heavily invest in leftist causes from environmentalism to defunding the police, and pledge to avoid doing business with other companies that don't do the same. Though it is amusing that he blames "activist investors and legislators" for it. In fact, ESG was popularized by activist investors and legislators, and the pushback has come from people simply noticing what they're doing. And then fatigue: regular people are sick of companies sticking its nose into political debates, particularly when they don't have anything to add.
Now, it would be a mistake for us on the right to assume that mega corporations are back on our side. As Tucker Carlson would say, Big Business still hates your family. And Michael Brendan Dougherty rightly points out that the occupant of the White House makes a difference. There's less pressure on business right now than in 2020, but should Trump or someone like him retake the reins, Woke Capital would come roaring back. But, let's take the time to delight in our adversaries' anxiety. Heaven knows, they'll be attacking us on solid ground again soon enough.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Murder by Death
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.
Who's afraid of the big bad gun?
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.
His legacy lives on.
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?
Covid Makes Them Do It
There is comfort to be found in self-delusion, especially when your delusion is shared among so many of your friends and admirers. Consider Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago, the gutters of which are awash with the blood of shooting victims. As of this writing, 2,386 people have been shot and 434 murdered this year in the city, an average of twelve shooting victims and two murder victims every day.
The violence is for the most part is confined to neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides, but even residents in neighborhoods once considered safe are now dodging bullets. On Wednesday night, eight people were wounded when gunmen shot up a party bus in the Old Town Triangle neighborhood near Lincoln Park. It was the city’s third shooting with at least five victims in a six-hour period. A 15-year-old boy was killed in one of them. Thirteen more people were shot on Thursday, one of them fatally.
That he did.
Mayor Lightfoot consoles herself with the fantasy that this daily display of violence can be attributed to the Covid pandemic, which she claims has impinged on the criminal courts’ ability to keep lawbreakers in check. Anyone who doesn’t share the mayor’s desperation to believe this nonsense should read the refutation of the claim by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Like so many others in politics, academia, and the media, Mayor Lightfoot entertains this fantasy because she cannot publicly admit the uncomfortable truth about crime, which is that there are neighborhoods in Chicago, as there are in every large American city, where the only restraint on criminal predation is the presence of police officers able and willing to intervene in it.
For the past several years, most especially since the death of George Floyd last year, the American left, to include Mayor Lightfoot, has busied itself delegitimizing the police, portraying them as contributors to, not solvers of crime. This has motivated veteran officers to retire earlier than they might have, younger ones to leave the profession, and left those who remain on the job so dispirited as to be reluctant to engage in the type of proactive police work proven to reduce crime.
Consider the map above, taken from the Chicago Tribune’s website, on which each of this year’s murder victim is represented by a blue dot. The map resembles nothing so much as a petri dish choked with poisonous spores, with more being added every day. Viewed in this way, it’s easy to see the city’s murder problem as an abstraction, especially if one lives in a neighborhood where the dots are few or absent altogether. Putting aside any demographic patterns that might be inferred from the arrangement of the dots, suffice it to say that those neighborhoods where they are most heavily concentrated are those where the city’s social and moral fabric are most conspicuously frayed, and where effective police work should be most readily welcomed and encouraged.
Each of those dots represents someone who, until he was struck down (in most cases by gunfire) was going about his business with no idea what was about to befall him. And, almost as important as the lives taken, each of those dots is like a pebble plunked in a pond, with the ripples of anguish and sadness radiating out to the dozens of people who knew the victim and the thousands of others who every day live with the sound of gunshots and the specter of bloodstained sidewalks and fluttering strands of crime-scene tape in their neighborhoods.
For every shooting victim there is of course at least one shooter, someone who woke up in the morning and had his breakfast before venturing out carrying the gun he would use to deadly effect later on. He was unafraid of carrying that gun because he had, perhaps deliberately, perhaps inchoately, calculated the risks of doing so and found them acceptable.
They are acceptable to him because many if not most of the cops who patrol his neighborhood have similarly calculated the risks of stopping him and found them prohibitive. A good cop working any neighborhood comes to discern the good people from the bad, the pilgrims from the predators, if you will, the latter of whom can be divided into the dope dealers, the burglars, the robbers, and the shooters. And even when observing people he doesn’t recognize, the good cop can detect, through subtle cues in body language, those who are likely to be carrying a gun.
When he sees such a person the cop has a choice to make. He can pretend he hasn’t seen what he sees and drive on, or he can try to stop the man. The cop knows that if he tries to make the stop it can turn out in only a few ways, the first and least likely of which is that the man will put up his hands and say, “You got me, officer. I’ve got a gun, take me to jail.”
Failing this, the man may run and try to ditch the gun on the fly, or he may hold on to it while he flees, hoping to reach a safe place before the cop can catch up to him. Or – and this is where the risk assessment comes into play – the man may try to fight with or even shoot the officer in an effort to escape.
Is there anything it can't do?
If he is both skilled and lucky, the cop will win the fight or shoot before being shot. But even if he comes through physically unscathed he very likely will be thrust into a multi-year legal ordeal during which he, the cop, will be portrayed as a villain while the man he has vanquished, no matter how lengthy his rap sheet, no matter how contemptible his past, will be canonized into the litany of secular saints and remembered as “kind” and “generous” despite all evidence to the contrary, and who will be described as a “good father” when in most cases it would be more accurate to say he was merely a prolific one.
This is the world of Chicago’s cops, and of those in most other cities in the country. Until that changes, until politicians like Lori Lightfoot can admit the truth about what ails their cities, the bodies will continue to stack up in the morgues. In the meantime, Lightfoot and her ilk will cling to the belief that it is the pandemic that is responsible for all their cities’ woes, and that all will be well if we can just get enough people vaccinated.
Yes, there is a perverse comfort in self-delusion. Alas, there is no vaccine for it.
Who Killed Ashli Babbitt?
On November 19, 2019, Nathaniel Pinnock was shot and killed by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. Pinnock, 22, had robbed an auto parts store in Hollywood while armed with a machete and was walking from the scene when officers arrived and confronted him. Despite the presence of several officers, Pinnock refused orders to stop and drop the machete. Instead he ran to the drive-through lane of a nearby Chick-fil-A restaurant where he carjacked a Lexus and sped off. He made it only as far as the adjacent street where, after colliding with police cars, he got out and ran down Sunset Boulevard.
Officers pursued on foot, and after running some distance Pinnock turned and charged at one of them while wielding the machete. The officer retreated and fired his pistol at Pinnock, who despite being shot continued charging. The officer ran into the street where he stumbled and fell, and when it appeared Pinnock was about to deliver what surely would have been a devastating blow with the machete, the officer again fired his pistol. A second officer also fired. Pinnock fell to the ground mortally wounded.
That Pinnock’s death did not become a national news story is owing to the fact that the shooting was so manifestly justified, as can be determined even from the cursory presentation of facts above. But such is the transparency now attendant to officer-involved shootings in Los Angeles that anyone questioning the propriety of the officers’ actions can find the LAPD’s video summary of the incident and the involved officers’ body camera footage here, the civilian police commission’s 37-page report here, and the Los Angeles County district attorney’s 12-page legal assessment here. All officer-involved shootings in the city of Los Angeles are similarly investigated and documented, and while one may argue with the conclusions reached by the police commission or district attorney in any given case, no one can claim the relevant facts have been concealed.
This level of transparency regarding the use of deadly force by police has come to be expected and is now common (though not yet ubiquitous) across the country, which makes it all the more curious that what rightly should be regarded as one of the most controversial police shootings to have occurred recently has gone all but unexamined in the press. The case of Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran who was shot and killed by a U.S Capitol Police officer during the so-called insurrection of Jan. 6, has gone largely unexamined, either in the media or among the self-professed experts who find fault in even the most clearly justifiable police shootings.
Ashli Babbitt’s shooting was not clearly justifiable, far from it in fact, yet the U.S. Department of Justice, in a memo just over a page in length, explains it away by saying their “investigation revealed no evidence to establish that, at the time the officer fired a single shot at Ms. Babbitt, the officer did not reasonably believe that it was necessary to do so in self-defense or in defense of the Members of Congress and others evacuating the House Chamber.”
And that, peasants, is that. Your rulers have made their decision, do not dare question it.
How the other half thinks.
Within a day of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, the entire country came to know the name of Derek Chauvin, the police officer who ultimately was convicted of murdering him. (Chauvin was sentenced on Friday to 22 and a half years in prison for second-degree murder.)
Similarly the name of every officer involved in a shooting that has tickled the antennae of the Black Lives Matter movement and its fellow travelers has been made public, in some cases forcing the officers and their families to flee their homes so as to avoid hostile protesters. Yet the officer who shot Babbitt remains unidentified and, as far as we know, employed by the Capitol Police.
More disturbingly, the officer’s rationale for shooting Babbitt remains a mystery beyond the perfunctory language in the DOJ memo. Compare this to the LAPD shooting of Nathaniel Pinnock, or to any LAPD shooting in which the officers’ actions are scrutinized and publicly judged by the district attorney in light of the applicable California law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent, specifically the case of Graham v. Connor(1989). In Graham, the Court held that an officer’s use of force must be “objectively reasonable” under the circumstances. In the case of Ashli Babbitt, how can the public be reassured the officer’s actions were in fact reasonable when his explanation for firing remains cloaked in secrecy?
The Washington Post has produced a video of the Babbitt shooting, compiling two points of view from cameras carried by protesters in the crowd that included Babbitt. In the video, three uniformed police officers can be seen blocking the doorway to the Capitol’s Speaker’s Lobby, beyond which is the House Chamber. A man who appears to be a police officer dressed in a suit stands nearby. Just beyond the locked doors can be seen several men, one of whom is identified as a congressman. Inexplicably, none of the police officers appears to take any action to prevent the windows from being broken or otherwise interfere with the protesters. The officers look to be perplexed but not panicked, nor do they display any apparent concern at what might occur should the protesters breach the doorway.
Indeed, after some moments the officers abandon their position and allow the protesters to continue their efforts to break the windows. We then see, just beyond the doors, the extended arm of man in whose hand is a semi-automatic pistol, and when protesters at last succeed in breaking one of the windows, Babbitt is the first to attempt to climb through. While she is still in the window, the man with the gun fires a single shot, striking Babbitt and causing her to fall backward to the floor.
At the time the shot was fired, the Speaker’s Lobby appeared to be empty save for the shooter and two or three men walking casually at the far end. Babbitt, who was of slight build, carried neither a weapon nor anything that might reasonably be mistaken for one. The officer was about ten feet away from Babbitt when he shot her and cannot reasonably claim he was under an imminent deadly attack at the time, nor can he claim he was defending someone else from such an attack as no one else visible on the far side of the doorway appeared to be closer than fifty feet away. If it is true that the officer fired in self-defense or the defense of others, what was his explanation for doing so when no justification is evident in the video, the only publicly available evidence we have? The government will not say.
The Capitol Police and the Justice Department may be forced to produce whatever evidence they have in the course of a lawsuit expected to be filed by Babbitt’s family, though I expect the case to be settled prior to the discovery phase with the government, i.e. the taxpayers, paying a considerable sum to the plaintiffs. Their decision to clear the officer notwithstanding, the government’s position rests on such a feeble legal foundation as to make going to trial potentially expensive and embarrassing. When the facts are placed before a jury, the shooting simply cannot withstand the reasonableness test as outlined in Graham v. Connor, and no credible use-of-force expert would dare testify otherwise absent evidence not yet revealed.
"Insurrection" or provocation?
The Babbitt case is only the most fearsome example of what can plainly be seen as a dual system of justice as it relates to political protest. The FBI and DOJ have spared no effort in identifying, arresting, and prosecuting every last person who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, and even those accused of nothing more than trespassing have languished in jail for months without trial, often in solitary confinement.
I have no sympathy for those who violated the law at the Capitol on Jan. 6, least of all for those who assaulted police officers. Yet video recorded in and around the Capitol that day reveals varying levels of criminality on the part of protesters, from those who merely walked through the hallways as if on a lark, to those who vandalized or stole property, to those who, again, assaulted and even injured police officers. Let them all be punished, each according to the law and his own misdeeds.
Would that the authorities exhibited equal zeal in pursuing all lawbreakers, but in Portland, Ore., many people arrested in the nightly attacks on the federal courthouse, in which officers were injured and the building repeatedly set afire, have been released on bail or had their charges reduced or dismissed altogether. In Minneapolis, few have been held accountable for the destruction of a police station, and in New York City, charges have been dismissed for hundreds of people arrested for rioting and looting. Similar leniency for rioters has been displayed in cities across the country.
Justice is blind, goes the old maxim, but when it comes to political protests under the current administration, one must himself be blind to believe it.
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.
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.
Beware of the Mask Police
If I’m calculating this correctly, we’re about to enter our forty-second week of “Two Weeks to Stop the Spread.” I’m just a cop with no claim to medical expertise, but if I may offer a layman’s opinion, weeks three through forty-one don’t seem to have been any more effective than the first two. What would lead anyone to believe the next two, three, or forty-one will be?
And we’re still being inundated with grim news about how the worst is yet to come. Every day at the top of the Los Angeles Times website one finds a collection of stories presented with the apparent intent of arousing dread in the reader.
Here’s a sampling of recent headlines: “New, potentially more contagious coronavirus variant found in California, Newsom says,” “L.A. County mortuaries struggle with rising toll from COVID-19,” and “‘Super-spreader’ event feared in L.A. as singer defies health order for concerts.” And it’s the L.A. Times, of course, so there’s the obligatory bit of class- and race-mongering thrown in as well: “L.A. hospitals serving the poor and people of color hit hardest by COVID-19,” and “How race factors into decisions about who should get priority for vaccines.”
After such a long period of lockdowns, not to mention mask mandates, social distancing, and the ever-shifting goal posts, people are understandably getting fractious. We should expect to see many more scenes like this one from Dec. 22, in which a Texas man was arrested at a San Antonio mall while participating in an anti-mask protest.
Who is that masked man?
Which places the police in an uncomfortable dilemma. There is a growing and seemingly irreconcilable divide between those who still believe these measures can be effective and those chafing under the restrictions.
I witness this divide daily as I walk the dog or ride my bicycle through my own suburban neighborhood near (but not too near) Los Angeles. I wear a mask when required by whichever local business I visit, donning and doffing it as I cross the threshold, but I never wear one while outdoors. I’m taken aback by all the people who do, especially those who veer into or even cross the street lest they cross paths with me and inhale some deadly molecule I may have expelled.
I’m tempted to ask these people (but do not ask them) what they think they’re accomplishing by behaving this way. One reason I don’t ask is that I’m afraid they’ll call the police and accuse me of trying to infect them. Another is that I haven’t time for a lecture on the errors on my maskless ways.
Not long ago I was in a grocery store in which the aisles were designated as one-way, thereby, one supposes, facilitating the proper social distancing. I was properly masked and proceeding down an aisle when I realized I had passed a needed item. I turned around and walked back about ten steps when I was upbraided by some clucking harridan who, I must note, chose to come within six feet to harangue me on my misconduct.
Joe Biden has premised to enact a national mask mandate upon taking office, though it’s unclear how he can do so under existing law. But then, the law itself has been shown to be far more elastic than one might have imagined prior to the arrival of the Wuhan virus, so heaven knows what he might pull off with the cooperation of like-minded state and local officials.
Who is this masked man?
Beginning last March, governors, mayors, county health officials, and every brand of petty bureaucrat took it upon themselves to impose whatever measures they saw fit in the name of protecting us from the virus, and the collateral damage -- lost jobs, ruined business, increased drug and alcohol abuse, to name just a few -- be damned.
If such a mandate were to be enacted, how big a leap would it be to see supermarket one-way aisles decreed into law, thus inspiring people like the traffic monitor mentioned above to summon the police when they witness a violation? And how will the police handle such a situation?
Not long ago I assumed police officers would ignore these petty disputes, but now I wonder if I haven’t been too sanguine. The sight of the man being manhandled and arrested in San Antonio, along with stories like this one in Oregon and this one in Ohio serve to warn us that police officers are not immune to mask hysteria. Granted, the officers in these cases were technically enforcing trespassing laws when the alleged offenders failed to wear masks when required to do so by businesses and schools, but by now it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see these confrontations become commonplace under a Biden federal mandate.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal helps to illustrate why this is so. Writing in the Dec. 24 issue, Tunku Varadarajan introduces us to John McAuliffe, who has just retired after a 38-year career with the New York Police Department. McAuliffe told of a lesson he learned as a rookie in 1983: “Never embarrass a guy in front of his kid.”
It was once commonplace for older cops to pass on such wisdom to those they are charged with training. I join McAuliffe in lamenting this is no longer so. Police work has changed a great deal since 1983, not all of it for the better. I joined the Los Angeles Police Department at about that same time, and I was taught by some wise and worldly seasoned cops, some of whom were veterans of the Vietnam War.
I was trained to seek out and where possible arrest the people who made life miserable for their law-abiding neighbors. Robbers, burglars, and violent gangsters were a priority, and there was a measure of shame attached to hauling in some average Joe who had committed some minor transgression.
Sadly, focusing one’s efforts on violent criminals only invites trouble for today’s police officers, for to do so brings the risk of violent confrontation with people whose conduct is readily ignored or excused by their sophisticated betters in government and the media. The result is as predictable as it is tragic: a rise in violent crime and more deaths by homicide among those these same sophisticated betters purport to champion.
Until the pendulum swings back, as it surely will someday, more robbers, burglars, and violent gangsters will be getting a pass, and more mask scofflaws will be brought to heel. If you thought 2021 would be an improvement over 2020, think again.