Crime Still Low but Police Continue Whining

Radley BalkoAt The Washington Post last week, Radley Balko wrote a great article, In the end, 2015 Saw No “War on Cops” and No “National Crime Wave.” As he noted, this was supposed to be because of all the supposed anti-cop rhetoric and so on. But the data are in and it shows that there is no spike in violence against the police. In fact, the numbers from this year continue the downward trend of police fatalities that started in the mid-1970s. It is safer to be a police offer than it has been in well over a century.

But think about that supposed anti-cop rhetoric. I don’t recall any anti-cop rhetoric. Every person of any power who was critical of policing always went far out of their way to say that most officers were great at their jobs. This is at best an exaggeration. But the fact that everyone felt the need to continue to lick the boots of law enforcement shows just how much power and inexplicable goodwill that people have for the police. It was only the police unions and other advocates who equated criticism of systemic problems and individual officers with attacks on the police generally.

As for crime, well, that too is down. We have some statistics via Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime (pdf). It is “a group of 150 of the country’s most prominent current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, district and state’s attorneys, US Attorneys, attorneys general, and other law enforcement leaders…” And they reported:

“Crime in the US is at an all-time low across the country, and we expect it to stay that way,” said Ronal Serpas, Chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration and the former New Orleans Police Superintendent. “Despite some misleading reports about a surge in crime rates, the data show just the opposite. In fact, as recent studies show, the overall crime rate will be lower this year than it was last year, and half of what it was in 1990. Some cities have seen a rise in murder, but these are isolated incidents — not a new crime wave — which local leaders are taking steps to address.

Remember back to why crime was supposedly spiking: police officers were not doing their jobs because they were vewy vewy awraid. So if crime had increased, wouldn’t that have been the fault of the police? Shouldn’t we have reacted badly toward them and not their critics? After all, don’t we have to sit through their royal-like funerals because their jobs are just so dangerous? Isn’t this why we must be now and forever on hands and knees licking their boots? I understand their whining; I’d hate to be a police officer. But I don’t see why the rest of us should put up with the whining. Policing is one of the few good-paying jobs left in America that someone can get with only a high school education.

Despite the fact that violent crime is low and getting lower, Americans think that it was up this year. I think we know why this is. The whining of police officers has an effect. But it’s strange that we put up with it. Would we ever accept teachers going around whining that students were really stupid and that’s why they weren’t doing their jobs? No, we’d tell them to shut up. But since it is the police, it’s somehow acceptable. So in addition to doing at best a mediocre job, the police are spreading lies and fear.

As Radley Balko concluded, “It’s one thing to give in to fear when crime really is on the rise. But it would be tragic if the opportunity we have today to reform laws was thwarted by [this] sort of fact-free fear.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

24 thoughts on “Crime Still Low but Police Continue Whining

  1. I actually blame the media-if more of them were like Steve Collins and not report on whatever sensational murder that just happened, we might not have this. Of course that would require forcing Fox News off the air and I don’t know if that is possible under the 1st Amendment.

    The job is somewhat dangerous depending on what they are responding to. If it is someone reporting an active shooter? Yeah that is dangerous. If it is a domestic disturbance? Possibly. If it is the occasional ambush set up? Yep.

    But most of the time it is pulling some person over on the side of the road for speeding (there was a spike in such activity in my area and it may have worked, fatalities dropped dramatically) or something else like having a covered state name on their license plate. I called that the Whren excuse for DUIs. Mostly not going to be dangerous unless the persons pulled over happen to be sovereign citizens.

    I do think the reason the police feel in heightened danger is because they are being attacked for officers violating the law, letting their biases get the best of them and other behavior that is not desirable. They get defensive like many people do when being told they are wrong or doing something bad. Now the average department has to take a good long look at themselves and be honest about how they do their job and push hard to stop the people who do a terrible job by either firing them or putting them in a place where they can do no harm.

    Will they all do that? Probably not. But some are-Phoenix PD has implemented some long needed reforms for dealing with the mentally ill and they have public/police boards that anyone can apply to serve on, not that the average person knows about this. Which is why I tell my friends-if you get stopped and the officer is terrible, report it. If the officer does a good job, report that too. Body cameras are nice but if you don’t have a papertrail, commanding officers have a much more difficult time firing bad cops.

    Others are the Chicago PD. *sigh*

    • What I see with police is what I saw with men in the 1970s. It is this feeling that they’ve always acted a certain way and now they are being told that they are wrong. This is where management really matters. You just get them all together and say, “What would you do if you weren’t cops? Would you have better jobs? Would you get paid even half as much? The people want us to police in a new way, so you’re going to do it — without complaint. And if you don’t like it, feel free to take a job at Home Depot.”

      • I have mentioned on other boards a possible situation first mentioned in a book on Mapp v Ohio about how the police periodically go through a professionalization after a bunch of problems are identified with them.

        Same thing here-there was a problem identified and now it is being addressed slowly and sporadically since the police are not one single unit. When you have 12,000 police agencies, you cannot all shove them into a room and say “y’all are going get fired if you don’t obey the law. And Murphy, I know you are on steroids, cut it out.” But there are improvements and pressure has been kept up and steady.

        • Yeah, I understand the problem. But it does seem to me that the issue is management. That’s why when I see some sheriff or chief of police who is clearly insane, I despair. But I think the vast majority of them are sane and don’t require too much of a push to get their houses in order.

          • Usually is-which is why the community leaders in charge of the police (city councils and the like) should be checking to see if the Chief of Police is doing a decent job.

            Sheriffs are a different kettle of fish and much harder since most of them are elected.

              • They, more than others, reflect the lack of sense a mob can have.

                Add in the fact that there is a lot of prosecutors who are totally indifferent to the fact that bad cops exist and you get the Philadelphia situation although I think that has more to do with the lack of accountability in general for either group.

                But there are positive signs and efforts to improve things. The question is-will it continue?

                • I think there is hope regarding police officers. I’m far less hopeful regarding prosecutors, who are seem never to be held accountable, even when they clearly knowingly break the law.

                  • This is where the state bars should be a lot more active in stripping licenses from prosecutors who do this sort of thing. But they don’t.

                    • I have a theory that prosecutors should not be part of the sophist tradition. They should be looking for justice. Maybe we should have two different kinds of jobs.

                    • One would think we could but that would require additional effort by the people who who regulate the practice of law. And since when would that happen?

                    • I think there is recognition that while a defense lawyer is just looking to get his client off, a prosecutor is supposed to be looking for the truth. It’s just in practice, that isn’t how it works. And there is no incentive structure for finding the truth — just getting convictions.

  2. If I ran a police force, I’d institute a policy of strict racial profiling. As in, if a city is 90% white, then 90% of police harassment has to be directed at white people. Because that would be the only way for the voting public to finally get behind police reform.

    I recently read an article in “The Progressive” about reproductive rights and education in Sweden (one of those articles which makes you wish to hell you didn’t live in America.) As an aside, the author (an American visiting Sweden) noted she was pulled over and forced to take a breathalyzer for the first time in her life; also, she comes to a complete stop at stop signs, because traffic cameras will catch you and you’ll get a heavy fine otherwise.

    The author said she hated this. Understandably so. It’s the kind of policing regarded as acceptable by a functioning democracy — it focuses on traffic violations, as bad driving is one of the most dangerous things to human well-being, and nobody’s exempt in Sweden from the Car Cops.

    Could you imagine if Car Cops regularly bothered BMW drivers here? There’d be a national movement to get rid of publicly-funded police completely and replace them with subscription-service security officers, bound by contract to fuck with only Black (or very obviously poor White) people. Which is damn close to what we have already, and that’s why Americans love them their cops.

    • That’s good. The idea of selective enforcement is inherently racist and classist. I also think that fines should be based upon the wealth and income of the person. A $365 red light violation is catastrophic for a poor person and nothing for a rich person. If David Koch runs a red light, he should be charge $40 million. It sounds silly but I’m dead serious. And if enforcement is to be selective, let’s make sure that the models and years are proportionally selected. With computers, it could be done. The way it’s done now, it seems like just another system to keep the poor down. I wonder why that is!

      • I brought this up at one of the conferences I attended and there is no consensus that this would be legal under the Constitution of the US or the state constitution.

        As for why those fines are the way they are-well…let us just say that Prop. 13 had many tentacles in some very odd areas.

        • This is one of my great annoyances: people claiming that we have the best possible constitution. We don’t. Not by a mile. It probably would be unconstitutional. And that’s a big part of the problem.

          • What are you talking about? The Founding Fathers were infallible you know. Not real humans but angels taking the form of humans and giving us the most holy of words *starts laughing*

            I really did start laughing because that is just so stupid and depressingly too many people really think that way. It still makes me laugh.

              • I remember reading an article in the New York Times right around the time the Tea Party was taking off and the reporter had interviewed a woman who carried copy of the Constitution around and spoke darkly about the government not obeying it and how something would happen but what she didn’t know.

                But ultimately it is the same thing that John Oliver found when he went to one of the rallies for the Daily Show-the average person has little clue what the government does beyond MVD, the military and the President.

                • Yep. People don’t understand just what a hellscape this would be without the government. And it would hurt the rich most of all.

  3. It’s very similar to people who automatically accuse critics of Israel of being jew-haters. Basically in anglo North-American discourse, Israel and the cops have a highly privileged status. When this status is threatened, cops honestly feel that they are being targeted and discriminated against, when in fact (most) people are just saying that the cops should not be a privileged group above criticism.

    • Exactly. I heard Chomsky recently talking about the right wing Christians who are strangely pro-Israel and anti-Jew. I mean, they want Israel going so that the End Times can come. But in that End Times, they expect the vast majority of Jess to be killed. As Chomsky said, that’s a more thorough program than Hitler even had in mind.

      As for police: that’s right. As I indicated in an earlier comment, the police don’t like the fact that we now expect them to follow the law like everyone else.

  4. Just finished watching a powerful 90-minute “Independent Lens” documentary called “Peace Officer.” It aired at 8 PM CST and is showing again tonight, you might be able to record it to watch later.

    It centers on a county sheriff in Utah who founded that state’s first SWAT team unit (he traveled to LA for advice from the head of LAPD’s swat force, Daryl Gates.) Years after his retirement, his son-in-law had a psychotic episode and attacked his wife (she required treatment but survived), then sat in his truck in the driveway with a gun to his own head. The police mobilized the SWAT unit and killed him.

    Now the man goes around the country meeting people who have been victims of excessive police force (almost always nonviolent drug suspects.) He’s quite a character. Watching him reconstruct a police crime scene is amazing in its detail. Yet the movie doesn’t paint a happy picture of how police overreaction is trending in this country (seeing police video of cops shooting a man defending himself with a golf club is terrifying.)

    Well work a look if you get the chance. There’s still a few good things on PBS!

    • I’m sure it will be available online. Here is the page for it: Peace Officer. Although even if it were available right now, I don’t think I’d be up for watching it. Sounds too disturbing. But I’d like to see it eventually.

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