The most important criminal-justice reform that the next administration must undertake has nothing to do with policy and everything to do with rhetoric. Unless our nation’s top leaders stop pumping out the false narrative that we are living through an epidemic of racially biased police shootings, as FBI director James Comey warned this past weekend in San Diego, homicides will continue to spike in racially diverse cities as officers back off of proactive policing. Riots following fatal encounters between officers and blacks will become more frequent, and more attempts will be made on officers’ lives.
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Last year, homicides rose nearly 12 percent nationwide in agencies reporting to the FBI, close to the largest one-year increase in half a century. In cities with populations above a quarter-million, homicides rose 14.5 percent; cities with populations between half a million and a million saw a 20 percent increase in homicides. The victims have been overwhelmingly black.
The only thing that explains this increase is a change in policing. None of the usual “root causes” invoked to explain (or justify) crime has changed: Poverty and income inequality did not worsen; unemployment did not rise. The size of the crime-prone youth cohort did not expand, nor did the inner-city open-air drug trade.
What did change was the ideological climate in which officers work. Since the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the claim that black males are under constant lethal threat from racist, trigger-happy cops has become engrained in our national discourse. President Barack Obama routinely accuses the cops of treating blacks and whites differently. At the memorial service for five Dallas police officers gunned down in July 2016 by an assailant inspired by Black Lives Matter ideology, President Obama took the opportunity to declare that black parents were right to fear that “something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door” — that he will be shot by a cop simply for being “stupid.”
After the next Black Lives Matter-inspired assassination of police officers in July…