Forum Question: Attacks on Police

The Watcher’s Council forum question this week concerned the attacks on police that had occurred last week.

Here was my contribution:

I think there’s a lot of exaggerated fear on all sides.
It is not true that police are being murdered in numbers. Here in Chicago there hasn’t been a police officer killed in the line of duty in five years. Police killings, e.g. Laquan McDonald, simply can’t be attributed to rational fear on the part of police.

It’s also not true that blacks are being murdered in numbers by police. The number of blacks killed by police relative to the number of their arrests for violent crimes is about the same as whites. Black anger of the sort that apparently motivated the murderer in Dallas last Thursday simply can’t be thought of as a righteous response to black men being hunted by the police.

The United States is a country of 320 million people and there are more than a million law enforcement officers. With such a large population and tens or hundreds of thousands of encounters between the police and black men daily, occasional tragic incidents are inevitable. Comparing the United States with, say, Denmark is facetious. Denmark is the size of a good-sized U. S. county. There are thousands of U. S. counties where no police officers or civilians have been murdered in decades.

Why the fear? I think there are several reasons. The power of social media and every phone a video camera mean that these inevitable incidents are made available to a worldwide audience in minutes. The news media pick up these viral accounts and perseverate on them, giving the impression that they’re much more frequent and a much more serious problem than they actually are.

Another contributing factor is political leadership that feels the need to provide a misguided balance in their statements about these unfortunate incidents. IMO if President Obama merely said nothing on the grounds that these incidents are local matters and he shouldn’t insinuate himself into them or supported the police unconditionally we’d all be better off.

The forum post at the Watcher’s site is here.

20 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    Thinking back on that Fryer study I think we concentrate a bit too much on shootings. That study, supporting others, showed that force is used more often against blacks, and that was self-reporting by the police. When you ask the people being stopped, the report much higher numbers. In that context, I think it makes the reaction of black people regarding the shootings more understandable.

    I disagree about the Obama comments. It is disappointing that you have bought into the right wing narrative. Should he not comment upon the mass killings we have had in the last few years? These have been important events. Black people have claimed that the police have used unnecessary violence against them for years. Then you get actual documentation. If you actually read what Obama says, he is pretty careful about praising the police, and saying that further investigations are merited. However, if you are just making the point that no matter what he said, it would be twisted to score points by both teams, then maybe you are correct. In that case he should never say anything.


  • If you actually read what Obama says, he is pretty careful about praising the police, and saying that further investigations are merited.

    If you actually read what he said, he opened by attacking the police (without evidence) and followed up by supporting them, a mixed message. If his choices are balancing his remarks by both criticizing and praising the police or just butting out, I think butting out should be the preferred choice.

  • steve Link

    What did he say that constituted an attack?


  • ... Link

    This is yesterday’s news. Today’s news is all about trucks coming alive and running over babies while framing innocent peace-loving Muslims (as if there were any other kind), a coup in Turkey brought to us by some of Hillary’s nearest dearest “contributors, and the big news – Donald Trump has a stupid new campaign logo.

    PS I suspect Trump, with his pick of Pence and the new logo, has finally started listening to campaign consultants. Big mistake.

  • From the president’s remarks:

    And so when African Americans from all walks of life, from different communities across the country, voice a growing despair over what they perceive to be unequal treatment; when study after study shows that whites and people of color experience the criminal justice system differently, so that if you’re black you’re more likely to be pulled over or searched or arrested, more likely to get longer sentences, more likely to get the death penalty for the same crime; when mothers and fathers raise their kids right and have “the talk” about how to respond if stopped by a police officer — “yes, sir,” “no, sir” — but still fear that something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door, still fear that kids being stupid and not quite doing things right might end in tragedy — when all this takes place more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, we cannot simply turn away and dismiss those in peaceful protest as troublemakers or paranoid.

    There is a time and a place. This was not the time or the place. You may not believe it but police officers clearly took that passage as an attack.

    I understand that the president was searching for balance but, as I say, there is a time and place.

  • Guarneri Link

    What’s this?? Perspective? Can’t have that.

    The police protect their own, including the bad actors. That can be filed, I think, under an overwrought and world weary bunker mentality, and poor hiring selection processes.

    The race grievance industry also has a role. I fully understand their motivations, and they aren’t “righteous.” My question is, if not to consciously echo their sentiments, what is the motivation of politicians and media to give them disproportionate voice? I think I know, and I file that under depravity.

  • ... Link

    Let’s not forget that the Prez has a history here, too. From calling the police in Mass stupid (followed eventually by the execrable beer summit) , to sending several members of his Administration to give their regards for Michael Brown who, lest we forget, had assaulted and probably tried to kill a police officer. The Prez’s comments don’t happen in a vacuum.

  • walt moffett Link

    Guarneri, I suppose pandering for votes and as the late Gov. Lepetomane put it, “protect our phony baloney jobs” is a form of depravity. Many a political career has been launched after a police killing.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Obama uses the shooting of minorities to lecture the country on its past and current racial sins, either expressly or implicitly attributing the motive to the deaths before all of the facts are in. But when police officers are killed in Texas, he says: “First of all, I think it’s very hard to untangle the motives of this shooter.” Same with jihadist, he is so afraid for the safety of minorities that he says bizarre things in response to obvious terrorist attacks made with publicity in mind.

  • Guarneri Link


    I think the race grievance types do it for money first, and power second. In my book that’s wicked. The media are in it for ratings first, and perhaps an ideological bent second. Wicked II. The politicians are in it for personal political gain and coverup first, and ideology a distant second. That makes Wicked III. Just look at Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel.

    Meanwhile, police hiring issues go unaddressed, as do the root causes of the black condition. And the grievance industry never, never wants to go out of business.

  • steve Link

    Wow! If that was an attack, then what you really want is no discussion at all about the police, just unmitigated praise.

    PD- Actually read Obama’s statement. He is explaining how some black people feel. He presents some factual data, not even contestable, and ends noting that there are real reasons why we should not dismiss peaceful protestors as paranoid and troublemakers. It is just one long, run-on sentence explaining why we should not dismiss those people. Yet you guys think it is an attack on the police. He only mentions the police once, this is mostly about the criminal justice system writ large.


  • steve Link

    “Many a political career has been launched after a police killing.”

    Which ones?


  • Modulo Myself Link

    The news media pick up these viral accounts and perseverate on them, giving the impression that they’re much more frequent and a much more serious problem than they actually are.

    Aren’t you simply explaining away what black people feel is a problem by letting it be a concrete fact that the police are always on the verge of being shot? To justify the mental state of someone who killed Philando Castile you have to envision a world in which a police officer is due to be shot at any second so it’s better to be safe than sorry. But this is not the case.

    I agree with Steve–the real problem is not really the police killing unarmed blacks. It’s the insane number of interactions between black people who are not criminals (like Castile) and the police. If you place police officers who seem to carry with them the idea that there are millions of cop killers out there in direct contact black people at higher rate than whites, this combined with the basic inability to judge on a face-to-face basis that many whites have is guaranteed to create shootings of the unarmed and innocent.

  • Andy Link

    I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before that, in general, police are too ready to use deadly violence. A huge caveat to the Fryer study is that it looked at different areas for each part and not the whole country – given the diversity in policing I would expect a lot more variability depending on location.

    Whether or not black people are killed more frequently is, at present, not known – but the reality is irrelevant because the perception is there and perception is usually reality for most people, even when there is good data. So the problem of dubious police killings of black people will have to be dealt with and IMO it should be dealt with by altering police procedures generally.

  • walt moffett Link

    Guarneri, you get a harrumph out of me.

  • walt moffett Link

    steve, locally Richard Arrington, former mayor of Birmingham, Nagin in New Orleans, others well, read back issues of your local paper when council and mayoral elections come up.

  • G. Shambler Link

    Saw an episode of “cops” years ago filmed in Fort Worth, they always begin the program with a side view of the officer driving and his opening monologue. In this monologue, the officer actually said ” at the end of the day, I’m going home safe, the hell with John Q.” I thought it was an editing error, but they actually reran the episode at least once.

  • Wow! If that was an attack, then what you really want is no discussion at all about the police, just unmitigated praise.

    Context. When the president said that he was figuratively standing over the bodies of five murdered policemen. As I have said repeatedly there is a time and a place.

  • steve Link

    Context? He spend the first half of the speech praising the police in general, and each officer who died in particular. He then, in your quote, explains why they were there. As I am sure, you know, a number of people have suggested that the demonstration should have never taken place. That the police wasted their lives. This was not an attack but an attempt to explain ho wit it important it was to let this event take place, and validate the loss of life by those police. This was about as far as you can get from an attack.


  • TastyBits Link

    Another attack on the police, and I suspect one candidate will pick up a few more votes.

    The Left is amusing when they decide that something is “fake but true”. (By amusing, I mean intellectually dishonest, and philosophically bankrupt.) Facts only matter when they support the Left’s argument. Otherwise, we must assume that the facts would have supported the Left’s argument, but there was some evil Right Winger holding those facts hostage.

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