Diversity vs. Freedom (contd.): Police Paralysis Spreading…
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In Cincinnati, as I noted in a column last month, city police seem to be giving up on enforcing the law—because whenever they do enforce it, they risk ruining their careers and lives by being accused of "racial profiling," "police brutality" or just plain "bigotry" pure and simple. But Cincinnati is not the only city where the crooks have won.

In Seattle—like Cincinnati, the scene of serious race riots earlier this year—what the cops themselves call "depolicing" is the latest trend. Depolicing is simply the practice of not performing in black areas the police functions that are routine in other areas—like making traffic stops or arrests of black suspects. "De-policing," as a recent news story in the Seattle Times defines it, "is passive law enforcement: Officers consciously stop trying to prevent low-level crime and simply react to 911 calls." Why shouldn't police stop trying when actively enforcing the law only results in lawsuits, being fired, or an outright legal charge that could land you in prison?

One Seattle police veteran of 17 years told the Times, "Parking under a shady tree to work on a crossword puzzle is a great alternative to being labeled a racist and being dragged through an inquest, a review board, an FBI and U.S. Attorney's investigation and a lawsuit."

Needless to say, crime in the areas where depolicing is taking place goes up, and guess who's the first to whine about the police not doing their job? "Black community leaders," of course. As the Times notes, "Black community leaders said ... they won't accept lax law enforcement; the police are paid to protect the public, even when it means taking heat." Maybe the "black community leaders" might like to enforce the laws themselves.

And Cincinnati and Seattle aren't the only cities where racial and political attacks on the police have helped the cops improve their vocabularies with crossword puzzles. The New York Times reports (July 30, 2001, "Urban Police Jobs Are Losing Their Appeal") that it's happening all over the country: veteran police officers leaving the force for better paying jobs in private security firms, record low numbers of applicants to the force, and record low numbers of officers taking the required exams for promotion—to sergeant, lieutenant, police chief. As the Times notes, there are economic reasons for the trend, but police all over the nation are also "discouraged by seemingly constant public and news media criticism about police brutality and racial profiling."

In Los Angeles, "where the police have been buffeted by scandals since the Rodney King beating in 1991," a miserable total of 19 recruits turned up in the police academy class this summer, a record low. In Detroit, where the police department is being grilled by a federal investigation of civil rights violations and two white police officers were sent to prison after being railroaded for the death of a black drug dealer in 199?, "600 to 700 officers have resigned in the last five years," and more than 1,000 have retired in the same period. In New York City, more than 1,700 officers left the force last year, a third more than the year before. The trend is clear: nobody wants to put up with the grief — not only the danger of the job itself, but also the risk of being ruined if you even do the job—and those who don't have to put up with it, aren't.

If the trend continues, the future of American urban life may well become even bleaker than it already is. Not only have industries, businesses, and taxpayers deserted the cities for the suburbs but now so are the police themselves. That means the only people still left inside the cities will be the criminals, who can enjoy the empire they've conquered in barbaric splendor. It's the future depicted in the 1981 movie, "Escape from New York," where the whole city has been turned into a gigantic penal colony.

It's a future that was predictable. How long does anyone, even "black community leaders," believe you can abuse, insult, endanger, and punish policemen before they simply take a walk? How long can you construct every conceivable obstacle to performing the job the "community" demands they perform until the job simply no longer can be performed at all?

What we are now seeing is the culmination of a trend against the police (and for that matter against any and all established authority) that began in the 1960s, and it may well end in the extinction of the professional law enforcement that has made civilized life in large-scale cities possible. If that happens, either large-scale cities will simply revert to the jungles from which they came, or else some other force will emerge that will enforce order—and it probably won't be in the mood to pay much attention to any complaints about brutality and bigotry. 


August 06, 2001

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