Department of Justice data indicates that there is no national police strike or slowdown.
There are, however, problems in communities where trust between cops and residents needs vast improvement.
Are media and community expectations about law enforcement reasonable?
ProPublica offered an article titled, “What Can Mayors Do When the Police Stop Doing Their Jobs” in the fall.
While there are issues and mistrust between some communities and the police, Department of Justice data show no signs of a national police strike.
Per polling numbers, there is widespread support for law enforcement.
ProPublica (direct but rearranged quotes)
In cities across the country, leaders face a phenomenon encountered in Baltimore and Chicago: officers slowing their work in the wake of high-profile episodes of police violence.
Across the United States, cities are experiencing turbulence and a rise in gun violence following the protests of abusive policing sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. More than 110 people were shot in that city in the month following Floyd’s death, eight fatally. In Atlanta, 106 people were shot over a 28-day period ending July 11, up from 40 over the same period last year.
This isn’t the first time in recent years that America has seen such protests followed by a spike in violence. In the spring of 2015, the death of Freddie Gray, 25, from injuries sustained in police custody brought demonstrators into the streets of Baltimore. The protests flared into rioting and looting. Soon afterward, the city’s chief prosecutor announced criminal charges against the officers involved in the arrest. The officers’ colleagues responded by pulling back on the job, doing only the bare minimum in the following weeks. In the resulting void, crews seized new drug corners and settled old scores. Homicides surged to record levels and case-closure rates plunged. “The police stopped doing their jobs, and let people fuck up other people,” Carl Stokes, a former Democratic city councilor in Baltimore, told me last year. “Period. End of story.”
The protests of recent months, which reignited again in August following the shooting of a man by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he leaned into his vehicle, have created real momentum for efforts to reform police departments. In many cities, though, rank-and-file police officers are greeting these efforts with an apparent pullback.
They say they are aggrieved by the charges against their fellow officers, public criticism of their department as a whole or growing calls to greatly reduce their powers and resources. In several cities, rising violence is already undermining support for shifting resources out of police departments, including among many Black residents and elected leaders. If reformers hope to succeed in curbing overpolicing, they will first have to overcome the challenge of underpolicing, which has often allowed officers to exercise an effective veto on reform.
In Atlanta, the police union has responded to the pressure for accountability and reform by blaming its critics. “Officers are fed up. They’ve been treated like crap both by their fellow citizens and their own legislators,” said Vince Champion, the southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which represents most Atlanta officers. “You can’t have it both ways — call us and we come to do our job, but then if our job gets ugly, we’re the bad guys,” ProPublica.
Cops Feel Betrayed
The ProPublica article has merit. I remember images in Baltimore of people surrounding cops after the death of Freddie Gray while taunting officers and using their cell phones to record events.
All the officers involved in the Freddie Gray incident were charged with variations of homicide-related crimes. They were found not guilty by a judge or the charges were dropped.
Confrontations with community members nationally have been going on for quite some time, cops responded by pulling back. They patrol communities and respond to calls for assistance, but they refused to engage in proactive (aggressive?) policing.
In the view of most cops, they believe that it was communities and politicians along with media that pressured cops to do “something” about violent crime and issues that create discomfort for communities (i.e., public drug or alcohol use, disorderly conduct, prostitution). They believed that they were doing nothing more than responding to the dictates of communities. They felt betrayed by community reactions and harsh negative news.
Yes, there have been instances where officers made terrible decisions involving violence resulting in massive negative publicity. But Presidents Obama, Trump and Biden (plus many others) state that the vast majority of officers are decent people trying to do a dangerous and complex job. President Obama said it best when he stated that society expects too much from law enforcement and too little from ourselves.
There are problems with community relations, and they have to be addressed. Law enforcement exists to serve. But if you are capable of stereotyping a million cops (sworn and civilian) for the actions of a few, then you are capable of any “ism.”
There are now endless newspaper articles citing instances of cops leaving the job. Some cities don’t have enough officers to patrol their streets (i.e., Minneapolis). Per the Police Executive Research Forum, recruitment is down by 63 percent. Because of the violence directed towards police officers and COVID deaths, family members are telling loved ones to get out of policing, and to get out now, Cops Leaving.
Violent Crime Increased Dramatically
Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, violent crime increased 28 percent since 2015 (the year of the Freddie Gray incident and numerous additional disturbances). Serious violent crime increased. Fear of crime is at an all-time high. Gun purchases are skyrocketing. People and businesses are leaving cities. A variety of sources have documented a dramatic increase in homicides and other forms of violence, US Crime Rates.
There is no one article documenting the considerable rise in urban violent crime during the summer and fall of 2020, but news reports suggest that the cities where protests and or riots have occurred are being hit the hardest, Governing.Com.
It’s African American communities that are bearing the brunt of the violence, NBC News.
Proactive policing refers to policing strategies with the intent to prevent and reduce crime. They differ from traditional reactive approaches in policing, which focus primarily on responding to crime once it has occurred and answering citizen requests for police service.
A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine provides an extensive literature review of research as it pertains to proactive policing. It may be one of the most significant studies of law enforcement tactics in America. It was financed by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
The data indicate that most proactive police efforts reduce crime in the short run which has importance considering the reluctance of the criminological community to support any police strategies as effective, Proactive Policing Reduces Crime.
It may be a fair statement that if police revert back to routine patrols and responding to calls only, and refuse to engage in proactive policing, then cities experiencing exploding violence may not improve.
As to alternatives such as violence interrupters or anti-poverty or social programs, there is little to no data indicating that they have an impact on violence per CrimeSolutions.Gov. At the moment, it’s either cops working with communities, or there’s nothing as to an impact on violence.
Is There A National Police Strike? Department Of Justice Data
There is data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice that contradicts many media and critical commentaries on police-citizen interactions.
Add previous research, and a fair reading of the collective data indicates that most Americans, regardless of demographics, want cops in their communities and believe that officers act properly.
Yes, data on perceptions as to excessive use of force and courtesy-respect remain for communities and need to be addressed.
Two Simatinious-Competing Narratives
It’s difficult for some to understand the differences between police contacts and police-initiated contacts. There are endless media reports/commentary suggesting overly aggressive cops proactively stopping low-income people and violating their constitutional rights ending with increasing arrests and violence.
As stated, the flip side to this narrative are media reports and community complaints that cops throughout the country are holding back and not being proactive because of massive negative publicity and protests.
Both narratives are challenged by USDOJ data. Police-initiated contacts increased.
The use of force decreased for police-initiated contacts.
2.0 percent of Americans experienced threats “or” use of force by police in 2018 (citizen and police-initiated contact), up from 1.8 percent three years earlier. But threats or use of force numbers need context.
Per the Bureau Of Justice Statistics, violent crime increased 28 percent since 2015. Serious violent crime also increased. Fear of crime is at an all-time high. Per Gallup, violence tripled, Crime in America. Violence is skyrocketing in many cities.
Contact with law enforcement increased, 53,496,000 in 2015-61,542,000 in 2018. Most of this was resident-initiated (27,060,000-35,468,000). Considering the increase in national and local violence, increased citizen contact was expected and indicates an increased willingness of citizens to work with law enforcement.
Thus with increases in violent crime and police-initiated contacts increasing from 27, 416,000 to 28,881,000 and police-initiated street stops increasing, 2,504,000-3,528,000, there is no evidence of a national police showdown.
There’s no doubt that police slowdowns are happening in cities experiencing violent protests over police tactics which are leading to massive increases in violent crime, but it’s a local phenomenon in “some” cities.
Add this to the fact that the use of force decreased for police-initiated contacts from 3.3 to 2.8 percent, increased proactive contact did not result in increased use of violence.
Police-initiated arrests, however, decreased considerably, 815,000 in 2015-386,000 in 2018. Cops may be reacting to negative publicity and avoiding use of force issues via arrest. Per multiple media reports, there is an issue of police officers leaving the job thus fewer arrests to keep officers on the street for larger issues may be a necsessity.
There is considerable consistency regarding police-initiated contacts and household income. The lowest and highest income household incomes had the same amount of police-initiated contact (11.4-11.5 percent), thus contradicting those who argue that proactive police contact is directed solely towards low-income communities.
There are also media reports of decreasing confidence In law enforcement but citizen-initiated contacts have grown considerably. The polls show strong support for law enforcement, Perceptions Of Law Enforcement.
Source: Police Slowdowns?
All of this indicates that police-citizen interactions are immensely complex undertakings that do not fit many media-commentary observations. From my experience as a police officer, I found that the most innocuous encounters can turn into deadly or violence-filled interactions in a heartbeat. There are a multitude of people with emotional or mental health problems or are drunk or under the influence of drugs interacting with law enforcement.
When I was a cop, there were lots of interactions that had the potential for violence that immediately stopped when I calmly stated that there would be “consequences” if a suspect tried to use force.
How one deescalates “threats or use of force” during highly emotional encounters with people under the influence is an immensely complex problem with no easy solutions. The pandemic has made things worse.
But the bottom line is that much said as commentary or in media reports about law enforcement are factually incorrect.
There is no national police strike. There are, however, problems in communities where trust between cops and residents needs vast improvement. Cops are here to serve, but requests (demands?) for service need to be reasonable.
Don’t insist that cops break up noisy gatherings where drugs are being used but complain about the people arrested. You can’t have it both ways.
Policing remains one of the highest-rated institutions in America, rating much higher than Congress and the media. Surveys of citizens indicate a willingness to retain the police officers they have in their communities and to add more.
The “defund the police movement” is all but dead with President Biden asking for increased resources for law enforcement.
People demand that law enforcement agencies change, but the responsibility for better relations (and reasonable expectations) needs to be employed by everyone. This is not solely a police issue per President Obama and countless others.
Cops are leaving, recruitment is down 63 percent, and in some areas, proactive policing isn’t happening. Violence is skyrocketing in many communities. The problem isn’t solvable unless all take responsibility for solutions.
Some media fairness and objectivity may help stem the tide of cops leaving and lead to more productive interactions.
A new book by Georgetown University law professor Rosa Brooks recommends changes based on her real-life experience patrolling some of the District’s most violent neighborhoods as a cop. She served 4½ years as a volunteer Metropolitan Police Department reserve officer.
In “Tangled Up in Blue: Policing the American City,” Brooks brings to the task a liberal academic’s hostility to police wrongdoing and racial profiling. But her time on Southeast’s troubled streets tempers that perspective. She sympathizes with what the book calls officers’ “impossible job” of being “warriors, disciplinarians, protectors, mediators, social workers, educators, medics and mentors all at once,” Washington Post.
It’s time to move on to productive conversations between cops and communities.
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
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