Some months ago I wrote that cops in a lot of jurisdictions have decided that the current climate of hostility toward the police has led officers to keep their heads down — i.e., not to do anything that could result in criticism by the racial lobbies. Because this column also appears on my web site, I got a lot of response from around the country. A fair amount came from local departments. The following is one of several letters I got via email from cops in Prince George’s County. They all said essentially the same thing. (The letter has been edited only to remove identifying information.)
“Fred — After having read your article on 11/20/00 I have to state that YES!! We on the P.G.P.D for the most part are now looking the other way. After almost [deleted]years on the job I find this disheartening but a necessary fact to survive in today’s, what appears to most officers, an ANTI-POLICE environment. We are even being told by some supervisors to keep a low profile so “you’re not next on the front page”! I became a police officer to help people [deleted] years ago in P.G. County . . . but I now share the attitude of most officers, just let them eat each other, we have to survive.
“It’s a tough thing to ask a man or woman who has spent any time on the job to risk throwing it all away for someone you don’t even know. Try to imagine having [a substantial number] of years on the job and doing something you think is right to protect society. In an instant your whole life’s work can be gone, ruined after a grand jury, a justice dept. inquiry, or just Jack Johnson prosecuting you in the court of public opinion. They take months to reach a decision we may make in the blink of an eye!!
“Police officers are not robots, we are people, but we are people who can literally lose it all for trying to protect society. Society thinks we have no feelings, make no errors, and that if we do, we are improperly programmed and must be destroyed.
“My personal feeling is that society wishes to destroy itself by letting criminals have free reign, and perhaps the sooner society does implode the sooner we can rebuild it the right way!! But until then I will survive at my job, DOING NOTHING !!! Just as the fine people of P.G . County have requested.”
Cop after cop tells me the same thing. The problem, stated or implied, is invariably race. Almost any interaction with blacks can destroy their careers, they say.
If they stop blacks for traffic violations, it’s racial profiling. If they watch suspicious people, who in all-black neighborhoods will be black, they’re discriminating. If they’re involved in a shooting, then it’s excessive force with the powerful implication in the press that the motives were racial. A dozen politicians will try to fry them to get votes. They can’t win.
They can, however, avoid losing. And that’s what’s happening. A cop doesn’t have to stop a car obviously driven by a drunk. He can just not see it. He doesn’t have to get to robbery calls before the robber has escaped. He doesn’t have to take chances chasing down a fleeing murderer. He can just be outrun. He can turn on the siren so that the bad guys will be gone when he gets there. Cops have options. And white cops don’t live in black neighborhoods. They don’t have to care what goes on.
This sort of undeclared strike is absolutely racially driven. Cops in white regions still do their jobs. A white cop who stops a white drunk doesn’t get sued by Jesse Jackson.
Note that, as the author of the foregoing letter points out, it is blacks who pay the price. Crime increases. In all-black regions, the victims are black. Yet cops get paid whether they do anything or not.
The effects are insidious. There is nothing to link the increase in crime to non-participation by police. Blacks will simply, quietly, lose protection. If a cop shoots a robber at Seven-Eleven, Al Sharpton can say it was brutality, and get on television. But it is very hard to prove that Officer Smith might have caught the guy if he’d tried a little harder.
If we make it dangerous to enforce the law, cops will stop doing it. Savor the phrase: Let them eat each other. I hope this is what we want, because it is what we’re getting.