By David Liapis, Director of Communications – American Leadership and Policy Foundation
I heard someone speak recently about the statistics that came out of Baltimore in January showing a marked increase in violent crime in 2015. A Jan. 15 New York Times article broke down the issue by numbers, and they were disturbing. There were 344 murders in the city in 2015, which was a 63 percent increase from 2014. The article contained this quote: ‘“I’m surprised that it was such a dramatic increase,” said Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore. “Nationally, violent crime is going down but there are selected cities where it’s gone up,” he said.’
The Baltimore Police Department has refuted assertions that the case of Freddie Gray, a black man who died after being taken into custody by the BPD, has caused a “stand down” mentality among its police force. That’s certainly the right thing to say, but 637 shootings – a 72 percent increase from 2014 – and the fact Maryland’s largest city had its most violent year in more than two decades seem to indicate that statement might be more hollow than not.
Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice – these are names that bring up a wide-range emotions and opinions. Closely linked to these names are the “Black Lives Matter” movement and events such as the protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore. Some of the protests were unfortunately marked by lawlessness – theft, looting, assault, murder, trespassing, arson, destruction of personal property and more. Seeds of fear and mistrust were sown far and wide. People were afraid to walk their streets. Police officers were murdered in cold-blood simply because of the uniform they wore.
Think now of the Islamic State and what they are known for, including the violence perpetrated here in the U.S. by those to have given their allegiance to the Islamic State or other terrorist groups. I am now going to quote the latter half of the previous paragraph in parallel. ISIL is known for:
lawlessness – theft, looting, assault, murder, trespassing, arson, destruction of personal property and more. Seeds of fear and mistrust were sown far and wide. People were afraid to walk their streets. Police officers were murdered in cold-blood simply because of the uniform they wore.
Now, please, please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way implying all the Ferguson or Baltimore protestors or Black Lives Matter activists are terrorists or criminals. Many of them are respectable citizens exercising their Constitutional rights trying to highlight present-day manifestations of racism and injustice. However, I will assert that the actions of some people, albeit a small percentage, mirror those of terrorist organizations. That’s something to consider. Is what we’ve seen in Baltimore and Ferguson a form of domestic terrorism? And if so, what should our reaction be? Again, this is not about the people exercising Constitutional rights lawfully and respectfully. It’s about criminal behavior that some have resorted to that looks and feels a lot like terrorism and has resulted in the senseless deaths of too many people, especially law enforcement officers.
I have a friend who is a veteran police officer in a large city in the state of Washington. I had a chance to get his perspective on the deteriorating opinions about law enforcement personnel and the increase in race tensions over the past few years. He is very concerned with his ability to do his job safely, or even at all. He said his fellow officers, like him, feel like they are walking on eggshells. However, in spite of all the hate and negative public opinion, they will continue to fulfill their duty to protect us from criminals.
My friend illustrated his point with a story – a story about the night he almost didn’t go home to his family. He said he almost lost his life in the line of duty because he hesitated to pull the trigger on someone who was threatening his life. He hesitated because he thought of the situation – a dark alley, no one around but them, his word against whose he wasn’t sure, and, mainly, public opinion. In a climate where heavy suspicion is cast upon all officers who must resort to lethal force, officers may end up in body bags because they weren’t as decisive as they needed to be. Thankfully, my friend survived the altercation and is still doing his best to protect the people of his city in spite of plummeting trust and support for police officers. Here are his own words on this topic:
I think what is more notable is that in spite of it all, I do have the ability, the training, and the will to protect my citizens from the evil that roams our streets. Though I know I may not go home tonight, I return again and again to fulfill my duty to protect my citizens from evil they pretend does not exist. That is the courage of my fellow officers. In the face of certain danger and certain public outrage, we still serve those who don’t like us.
No law enforcement officer should have to fear doing their job, and they certainly should not have to fear being murdered for their vocation. Yes, our men and women in blue should always act with integrity, be unbiased in their application of the law, use only appropriate force necessary and be held accountable if they fail to do these things. I am in no way defending the illegal actions of a handful of “bad apples” who have abused their authority. However, we are all less safe when those sworn to defend us are afraid to move due to a hyper-sensitive, excessively politically correct, racially-charged, hostile culture that’s more willing to let Americans act like terrorists than to support those who risk their lives to protect us. As American citizens we have an obligation to hold each other to a high civil standard… it’s the core of a social contract that binds our nation together – a nation of law – a nation of order.