President Trump is signing an executive order today on police reform. The order, while relatively toothless, does one important thing: it accepts the premise of progressive activists that police institutions must be fundamentally changed.
Trump administration officials revealed during a background briefing on Monday night that the order will include incentives for departments to update their training and use-of-force standards. It will also incorporate a demand of the #DefundThePolice movement, which is to send along social workers with responding officers to calls that seem to be non-violent — ie, drug offenses, mental health breakdowns, complaints related to homelessness. You can be assured that it will not go far enough for the leftists who want to completely dismantle the current police system.
These types of concessions will not placate people who hate the police. The people rioting in the streets are professional tantrum-throwers who do not accept small victories; they only demand more. It’s thus a futile gesture that satisfies almost nobody. And it punishes police officers, who now have to protect and serve a nation that believes they are complicit in a racist system. Police officers also now face policy changes that make it difficult for them to do their job, which is, let’s not forget, to protect the public. At a time when the police are facing unprecedented levels of hostility in America, the Trump administration should be defending officers. Instead, the message from the White House is clear: you are the problem.
Sending social workers on non-violent calls might sound like a good idea, but it ignores several realities of policing. First, situations where mental health and drug abuse issues are involved can turn violent quickly and unexpectedly. Second, the presence of, and the responsibility to protect, a third party can distract the police officer from performing his or her duties.
Other policy proposals include stripping qualified immunity and getting rid of police unions. Qualified immunity shields police officers from lawsuits unless they have violated the clearly established constitutional rights of the plaintiff. Getting rid of qualified immunity would open up police officers to innumerable frivolous and vexatious lawsuits seeking to hold them personally liable for rights violations. Police officers would either risk going bankrupt trying to defend themselves, or they would ask their departments to spend time and taxpayer money on cases. This would be a waste of resources. Even when cops win, lawsuits can do severe reputational damage. And communities become far less safe when police have to think twice about a potential lawsuit from an aggrieved suspect.
Getting rid of police unions is another misguided policy ‘solution’. No doubt many public sector unions have some embedded corruption. But stripping police of their bargaining power will lead to lower salaries and fewer benefits for officers. The median police salary isn’t far above the national median as it stands — making police even less well compensated will lead to fewer people wanting to join the force and police departments being even less selective about who they put through academy. That is not the way to root bad actors out of the system.
Many conservatives loathe unions, so they have automatic — albeit misplaced — sympathy for the idea of tackling them. Many others have blindly accepted the idea that Trump must reform the police. Again, this accepts the premise that something, anything, must be done. Too many public voices have become so terrified of being accused of racism that they are no longer willing to stand up for the police — even though any fair analysis of the statistics suggests there is no systemic or institutional racial bias in police forces across the country. According to the Washington Post, more white people, armed and unarmed, were killed by the police last year. Controlling for crime rates, white people are disproportionately killed by officers. And just two police officers were found guilty of unjustified shootings of unarmed black men last year. But why let actual figures get in the way, when you can post little black boxes on Instagram with the hashtag #BLM to virtue-signal to people who despise you?
Thanks to the lack of support, police are now assumed to be the bad guys in every situation. This emboldens criminals and hurts those who want to uphold the law.
In Atlanta, for example, people protested and rioted after the death of Rayshard Brooks. The released video of the incident showed the suspect stole a cop’s Taser and pointed it at officers. The officer has been fired, and the Atlanta police chief resigned over the incident. In anti-police la-la land, officers are supposed to allow a suspect to incapacitate you with your own weapon. Who cares if they could then take your sidearm and execute you?
Even asking simple questions about the death of George Floyd is considered beyond the pale. It was immediately accepted as fact that Floyd was killed because he was black. It seems significant that Officer Derek Chauvin and Floyd worked together at the same club in the past, a thread that investigators are pursuing. It also seems important that half of the officers present were people of color. Floyd’s death was wrong, no doubt, but was it due solely to him being black? Or were there other motivating factors that should be considered?
With so many people afraid to speak up, it’s doubtful we’ll go back to being a society in which cops are honored and respected for putting their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep people safe. But now is precisely the time for brave Americans to defend, not defund, the police.
Television programs that show the reality of policing, such as Cops and LivePD, have been pulled off the air. Paw Patrol, a children’s cartoon, is under attack for portraying a police dog in a favorable light. A CNN anchor who fretted that defunding the police meant no one would save her from a home invasion was told to check her privilege. The cultural implications of letting race-baiting anarchists denigrate police officers cannot be overstated. Defend the police — and you protect Americans. You might have thought the Trump administration, of all governments, would understand that.