We, as a profession, are not without sin. We have a sordid past on many levels. We have seen massive corruption, lying, scandals, thievery and abuses that include terrifying the weak, drug dealing, murders, torture and framing the innocent. Those aforementioned abuses and wrongdoings cannot be denied.
What also can’t be denied is that when those crimes are committed they are perpetrated by an incredibly small percentage of our more than 700,000 members.
In contrast, massive corruption, lying, scandals, thievery, physical and verbal abuse, sexual assaults, framing the innocent can certainly describe other professions as well, including our country’s politicians and members of the Fourth Estate, our media class.
This isn’t meant to excuse those in law enforcement who have dishonored the profession, it’s merely to add context.
Law enforcement has tremendous power given by the government, and with that comes necessary oversight. The profession needs to be held to the highest of standards and with that comes inspection, investigation, transparency, and critical assessments.
That said, politicians and the media, must understand that unjustifiably placing blame for of all society’s ills at the feet of law enforcement is resulting in the most serious of consequences: a rise in violent crime in vulnerable cities.
Last week Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh asked for assistance from the FBI to strengthen the city’s police department in the face of an alarming rise of violent crime in her city.
“Murder is out of control, too many guns on our streets, domestic violence is increasing in our city,” said the exasperated Pugh.
She continued, “I’m calling on all the assistance that we can possibly get because I can’t imagine going into the summer months with the crime rate that it is today, what that’s going to look like by the end of the summer?”
Mayor Pugh then thanked federal officials for their assistance in the arrest of a man who murdered a three-year-old in 2014. “It sends a signal I think to those who are committing crimes in our communities that you can no longer continue to do this. You will be found, you will be caught, you will serve the time because people’s lives are valuable.”
She couldn’t be more wrong.
One arrest by the Feds isn’t going to signal anything to make the slightest change in the violent behavior of the city’s criminals. Why? Because they’ve been getting quite a different message for over two years now. One delivered very loud and clear: You have free-reign in Baltimore. The police are tapping out.
The Mayor’s expectation that the FBI can assist in the day-to-day in Baltimore not only won’t happen, it can’t. The Feds, and I am not one to bash them, are great at what they do. But what they don’t do is don uniforms and walk a beat.
The Baltimore cops may be undermanned but that isn’t the reason for the surge in crime. They have been understaffed before. What’s different in the past two years? An absence of proactive policing. The surge in crime began immediately after the cops pulled back. Though no division of the elite political class, few criminologists, no mainstream media outlets, and no legal activist groups like the ACLU will openly acknowledge this.
Why? Because they are the ones who wanted proactive policing stopped in the first place.
Back to the FBI. What would the Mayor want them to do? Have their agents stand on corners of high-crime neighborhoods and sternly stare at the murderous criminals? I’m sure the gang-bangers will cower in fear and run in terror at the sight of a guy in a suit.
And if the agents become proactive, like the cops used to be, the same damn thing will happen to them that happened to the Baltimore police: complaints of “gestapo-type” tactics will be leveled. Racism is sure to be part of the hysteria.
Then you’ll see cowering and terror runs, though it won’t be the criminals, it’ll be the city leaders.
The anti-police pundits blather on about how the violence isn’t as bad as in the early 1990s. They’ll yammer about how the crime surge is only in about 75 of the country’s counties. They’ll wax poetically about economic issues, past history, immigration, lack of trust between the police and the community, and then they will go back to their security-controlled TV studios and gated communities, sip chardonnay and chitchat about law enforcement ills with like-minded peers.
Meanwhile, real people are dying, and the FBI, the CIA, the DOJ, and the VIPs won’t be able to stop the carnage.
In Chicago, the police have been sidelined, demeaned, and maligned. They are very much aware that everything they do is a risk to their careers. Check the stats: They’ve shut-down, refusing to abide by the restrictive rules set down by the legislature. Not because they’re lazy, but because they and their families rely upon their jobs.
In two years the murder rate is up 60%.
I saw an African-American mother from the south side on TV a few months ago. She was enraged at a community meeting, decrying the police and in anguish over the violence in her community. When someone mentioned that the citizens wanted the police to discontinue Stop-and-Frisk she balked. “We want them to do Stop-and-Frisk! We just want them to stop the right people.”
And therein lies the problem.
As the ACLU pointed out, over 90% of the people frisked resulted in no contraband being discovered, proving, to them, the tactic is a failure and an undue hardship on those briefly stopped and patted down.
But the cops working high-crime areas, knowing they were pushing the limits of Terry v. Ohio when they detained and frisked young men of color in high-crime areas, knew something the academics didn’t. Something only the street and common sense teaches …
When you are interacting, stopping, talking, and patting, the other guys carrying the guns and drugs see it. They know they could be next. So they don’t carry when the cops are active. If they don’t carry, then they aren’t as quick to pull and use. Less people shot, less people dead.
Today is a different story. We have a very emboldened criminal element in many cities.
So politicians, pundits, etc., you got what you asked for. The question is: Did the citizens ask for it?
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement