In the rush to do something following the publicized incidents in Ferguson and New York City, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are looking to expand their search for racist cops across America. Part of that involves not only investigating police departments, but forcing them to submit to federal re-training programs. Sadly, there is reason to believe that these movements will only serve to make American cities much less safe than they are now.
Crime has been on a decided downturn for almost two decades, thanks largely to advances in police work. Holder and Obama could very well undo much of that progress in their quest to eliminate “bias” in the nation’s police officers. Holder’s Justice Department has already put several police departments through this training, and the results have not been pretty.
Handcuffed Police in Seattle
Two years ago, the Seattle Police Department went through the kind of re-training Holder wants to expand nationwide. The Justice Department claimed they had found a pattern of discrimination in the Seattle Police force towards blacks in the community. There was little evidence to support these claims, but it was enough that police were disproportionately stopping non-whites. Holder ordered Seattle police to come in line with federal recommendations on “bias-free” policing.
Since then, Seattle has experienced a shocking uptick in crime. Overall, crime is up 13%, but that’s not even the worst of it. Murder is up 21% and car theft is up a staggering 44%. So, it’s fair to ask: is this a tradeoff we’re willing to make as a country? Are we so enamored with the idea of a colorblind society that we’re willing to accept higher crime rates for the sake of achieving that impossible goal?
Living in the Real World
It’s still not entirely clear what it is protestors are fighting against. The evidence in the Ferguson case pointed dramatically towards the only conclusion the grand jury could make: Officer Darren Wilson did his job. Nothing less and nothing more. The NYC case is murkier, but is it worth going back to the New York City of the 1980s to avoid “biased” police work?
Police officers are not robots performing automated tasks on the streets. They are human beings who deserve to use the totality of their senses to carry out their duties, stay safe, and serve and protect the community. Insisting that they ignore obvious, glaring warning signs because they might accidentally “racially profile” someone is absurd. It makes the streets more dangerous for everyone, black people included. Black people especially, one might argue.
Is there work to be done in the areas of police brutality, community relations, and civil rights? Probably, but all of this feels like a reactionary response to two well-publicized cases out of thousands. It feels like politicians looking to make a name for themselves. And it feels like an impending disaster for the country’s crime rate.