The Deadly Cost of America's Anti-Cop Ideology
For almost two years, a protest movement known as “Black Lives Matter” has convulsed the nation. Triggered by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today. This belief has triggered riots, “die-ins,” the murder and attempted murder of police officers, and a campaign to eliminate traditional grand jury proceedings when police use lethal force.
Even though the U.S. Justice Department has resoundingly disproved the lie that a pacific Michael Brown was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender, Brown is still venerated as a martyr. And now police officers are backing off of proactive policing in the face of relentless venom directed at them on the street and in the media. Violent crime, as a result, is on the rise.
The need is urgent, therefore, to examine the Black Lives Matter movement’s central thesis—that police pose the greatest threat to young black men. I propose two counterarguments: first, that there is no government agency more dedicated to the idea that black lives matter than the police; and second, that we have been talking obsessively about alleged police racism over the last twenty years in order to avoid talking about a far larger problem—black-on-black crime.
Every year, approximately six thousand black people are murdered. This is a number greater than white and Hispanic homicide victims combined, even though only 13 percent of the national population is black. Blacks are killed at six times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. Who is killing them? Not the police, and not white civilians, but other black people. The astronomical black death-by-homicide rate is a function of the black crime rate. Black males between the ages of fourteen and seventeen commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Black people of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, and at eleven times the rate of whites alone.
The percentage of black people among civilians killed by the police—26 percent—is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings will occur most often in areas where cops are confronting violent, armed criminals and people resisting arrest. 40 percent of all cop killers have been black males over the last decade, even though black males are only 6 percent of the nation’s population. Yet standard anti-cop ideology holds that law enforcement actions are racist if they don’t mirror population data. New York City illustrates why that expectation is so misguided. Black people make up 23 percent of New York City’s population, but they commit 75 percent of all shootings, 70 percent of all robberies and 66 percent of all violent crime, according to victims and witnesses. Add Hispanic shootings, and you account for 98 percent of all illegal gunfire in the city. Whites are 33 percent of the city’s population, but they commit fewer than 2 percent of all shootings, 4 percent of all robberies and 5 percent of all violent crime. These disparities mean that virtually every time the police in New York are called out on a gun run—meaning that someone has just been shot—they are being summoned to minority neighborhoods looking for minority suspects.
Thankfully, such calls are rarer today than in the past. In New York City in 1990, for example, there were 2,245 homicides. In 2014 there were 333—a decrease of 85 percent. Nationwide, crime has fallen at a historic rate as well—by about 40 percent since the early 1990s. The greatest beneficiaries of these declining rates have been minorities: over ten thousand minority males alive today in New York would be dead if the city’s homicide rate had remained at its early 1990s level.
What is behind this historic crime drop? A policing revolution that began in New York and spread nationally. Starting in 1994, the top brass of the NYPD embraced the then-radical idea that the police can actually prevent crime, not just respond to it. They started gathering and analyzing crime data on a daily and then hourly basis. Equally important, they held commanders accountable for crime in their jurisdictions. Department leaders started meeting weekly with precinct commanders to grill them on crime patterns on their watch. These weekly accountability sessions came to be known as CompStat. They were ruthless, high-tension affairs. If a commander was not fully informed about every local crime outbreak and ready with a strategy to combat it, his career was in jeopardy. CompStat was widely adopted, keeping police departments intensely focused on where people are most being victimized, and that is in minority communities.
In terms of economic stimulus alone, no other government program has come close to the success of data-driven policing, which has opened up previously crime-ridden neighborhoods for new businesses and residents. But the crime victories of the last two decades, and the moral support on which law and order depends, are now in jeopardy thanks to the falsehoods of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Police operating in inner-city neighborhoods now find themselves routinely surrounded by cursing, jeering crowds when they make a pedestrian stop or try to arrest a suspect. Sometimes bottles and rocks are thrown. Bystanders stick cell phones in the officers’ faces, daring them to proceed with their duties. Officers are worried about becoming the next racist cop of the week and possibly losing their livelihood thanks to an incomplete cell phone video that inevitably fails to show the antecedents to their use of force.