WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2015 — In a speech to police officers gathered in Chicago for a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, FBI Director James B. Comey declared that a violent crime wave is gripping the nation’s major cities. He suggested that the additional scrutiny and criticism of police officers in the wake of highly publicized episodes of police misconduct has made officers less aggressive and emboldened criminals.
“I don’t know whether that explains it entirely, but I do have a strong sense that some part of the explanation is a chill wind that has blown through American law enforcement over the last year,” said Comey. The “age of viral videos” has fundamentally altered U.S. policing.
Comey’s comments have been viewed as giving credence to the notion of a “Ferguson effect” — the theory that riots and racial unrest in places such as Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, where police killed civilians, has prompted police officers to become more restrained.
That supposedly has resulted in an increase in violent crime as criminals become emboldened.
According to Comey, police tell him that officers who would normally stop suspicious people are opting to stay in their patrol cars for fear of having their encounters become world-wide video sensations. That hesitancy has led to missed opportunities to apprehend suspects, he said, and has decreased the police presence on the streets of the country’s most violent cities.
Comey declared, “I’ve been told by a senior police leader, who urged his force to remember that their political leadership has no tolerance for a viral video, that lives are saved when those potential killers are confronted by a police officer, a strong police presence and actual, honest-to-goodness, up-close ‘What are you guys doing on this corner at 1 o’clock in the morning’ policing. We need to be careful it doesn’t drift away from us in the age of viral videos, or there will be profound consequences.”
Violent crime is on the rise in nearly all big cities, and the level of trust between police and minority communities is at an all-time low. In Milwaukee, 104 people have been murdered in the first eight months of the year, more than the 86 who died in the whole of 2014. St. Louis reported a 60 percent rise in killings over the same period. And in Chicago, six people were killed and 28 wounded the weekend before the police conference addressed by FBI Director Comey.
Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly laments what he sees as a growing war on police officers. He states,
There are people who want to attack cops. It spurred the assassination of two of our officers in New York, (Rafael) Ramos and (Wenjian) Liu, the officer in Houston, other incidents. The anti-police rhetoric is disturbing. The police feel they’re under siege. The tone is set at the top. And among the rank and file, there is residual concern about (Mayor) de Blasio.
My problem with de Blasio goes back to 2013, when he ran against the NYPD and me personally. At the time, the NYPD was at 73 per cent approval and I was at 75 per cent. Leadership means more than following an ideological agenda. I don’t think the progressive movement fits well in a city like New York, where most people would rather you manage well than push an agenda. Stop and frisk is an important tool. The communities it helped most were minority communities, high-crime areas, where they appreciated our proactive approach to getting guns off the streets. Those communities are suffering the most in increased violence.
President Obama has done his best to separate himself from the views expressed by his FBI director. He has defended the Black Lives Matters movement, which has been widely criticized as being anti-police. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, for example, charges that Black Lives Matter spokesmen advocate the murder of police officers.
Speaking in Iowa, he declared that “many” in the movement support killing of cops:
“They have been chanting in the streets for the murder of police officers.”
Speaking at an anti-police rally in New York, film director, producer and actor Quentin Tarantino said of police brutality, “This is not being dealt with in any way at all. That’s why we are out here. If it was being dealt with, then these murdering cops would be in jail or at least be facing charges. When I see murders, I don’t stand by. I have to call a murder a murder, and I have to call the murderers the murderers.”
He made his comments days after a New York City police officer, who was black, was killed in the line of duty.
Tarantino’s father, Tony Tarantino, said his son was “dead wrong.” He declared:
I love my son and have great respect for him as an artist, but he is dead wrong in calling police officers, particularly in New York City, where I grew up, murderers. He is a passionate man and that comes out of his art but sometimes he lets his passion blind him to the facts and to reality. I believe that is what happened when he joined these anti-cop protests. We have many friends and relatives who have served honorably in the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department. Clearly, they risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe. Cops are not murderers. They are heroes.
When Quentin Tarantino was just 5, his cousin, New York police officer Frank Gucciardi, nearly died in the line of duty. Now 81, Gucciardi says, “I’m just shocked at the statements he made. The police in this country are the first line of defense.”
Gucciardi still suffers pain from a broken back he suffered from being stomped nearly to death by rioting students during Vietnam War protests at Columbia University in 1968. “Anything that happens, they call the police out first — from a simple dispute, to an auto accident, to a bomb threat, to an actual explosion like the Twin Towers.”
New York Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said:
We are very grateful to Tony Tarantino for having the courage to speak out and support the police. It is not easy criticizing someone you care about. But his son … has criticized the very people who protect the freedom of speech and who facilitate the making of his films. He owes an apology to law enforcement officers across the country.
The anti-police crusade has even reached the college curriculum. Stanford University features a class titled “History of the Police in the United States; Slave Patrols to Ferguson.” The five-unit history class explores the question, “How did the police come to have the power to use violence?” according to the course description, and fulfills a humanities requirement. The course description includes the following: “The historical relationship between race and the administration of policing is a central question. Students will hone the methodology necessary to examine primary sources such as police memoirs, court records, police files, detective novels, music videos and photographs.”
We know, of course, that police have historically abused men and women on the basis of race. When instances of such behavior occur today, those guilty must be dealt with swiftly and effectively. Racism in law enforcement is unacceptable.
Yet the current war on the police has the unintended consequence of making our inner cities, the very places where minorities live, increasingly dangerous. Throughout the country, police departments are more diverse than ever before. And some cities which have been focal points of anti-police violence, such as Baltimore, have mayors and police chiefs who are black.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel reports that morale in his police department is sinking. He says, “We have allowed our police department to get fetal and it is having a direct consequence. They have pulled back from the ability to interdict … They don’t want to be a news story themselves. They don’t want their career ended early. And it’s having an impact.”
In New York, morale among police officers is low. In an internal survey of the department in 2014, around 70 percent of respondents said that fear of being sued held them back from intervening to curb criminal activity on the streets.
FBI director Comey has performed an important service in making Americans aware of how the war on the police is making our cities increasingly dangerous places. It is unfortunate that by speaking his mind and reporting what is happening, as violent crime increases, that he has become an embarrassment to the White House, which seems to have a far different agenda.
In today’s political arena, truth often has a hard time being recognized, especially when it contradicts the conventions of political correctness.