Fox News declares war on cops, justice, liberty, and the American people

Fox News is telling us there is a war on police.

First, it is galling that Sher­iff Lewis can sit there with a straight face and say that the peo­ple lack account­abil­i­ty. Com­ing from a uni­formed law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­al, that’s rich. He could shoot a hand­cuffed, sleep­ing per­son in the head with a crowd of reporters watch­ing and cam­eras rolling and the worst that might hap­pen to him is los­ing his pen­sion. Unless the per­son he exe­cut­ed was also a cop, in which case he might have to go to prison for a dozen years.1 I can get away with jay­walk­ing or hav­ing an expired dri­ver’s license, but that’s about the end of it. So who is it that lacks accountability?

Sher­iff Lewis is lying about the police — in his coun­ty or any oth­er in the US — being in greater dan­ger than ever. Vio­lence in the US gen­er­al­ly is going steadi­ly down, vio­lence against the police is going steadi­ly down.2 The sec­tor in which vio­lence is increas­ing? Law enforce­ment vio­lence against non-law enforce­ment per­sons. Accord­ing to the Bureau of Jus­tice Sta­tis­tics, deaths at the hands of law enforce­ment offi­cers increased 40% between 2003 and 2011.3

In the sense that being a police offi­cer today means being more like­ly to be in an inci­dent where you might kill some­one, it’s true that a career in law enforce­ment is more dan­ger­ous than ever — it means more dan­ger­ous to us, not to law enforce­ment. Although the data on this is sketchy, my read­ing of the CJIS and BJS data (see above foot­notes) sug­gests that law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­als are vic­tims of vio­lent assault or mur­der at a far low­er inci­dence than non-law-enforce­ment indi­vid­u­als, when you add togeth­er on-duty and off-duty inci­dents. If true, it inval­i­dates the claim that police badges are essen­tial­ly tar­gets. No doubt it is true to some extent, but clear­ly the police are doing a much bet­ter job of pro­tect­ing them­selves than they are of pro­tect­ing us.

In this light, Sher­iff Lewis’s argu­ment is chill­ing. Once you parse «dan­ger­ous» to mean «dan­ger­ous to every­one else but law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion­als» and add the fact that his appeal is for more resources to be allo­cat­ed to law enforce­ment, his mes­sage is a threat:

  1. We have the guns
  2. You have the money
  3. We’re killing more of you all the time
  4. We want more guns
  5. Give us more money

In most cir­cum­stances, this would be called armed robbery.

In case you think that being white pro­vides pro­tec­tion against police vio­lence, think again. The per­cent­age of whites end­ing up dead at the hands of police is indeed falling, but the real num­bers are climb­ing — it’s just that the real num­ber of blacks being killed is climb­ing faster. The only group which seems to be get­ting killed by cops less often than before is «oth­er», so I guess if you’re not white, black, or his­pan­ic, maybe you can breathe a lit­tle eas­i­er. But prob­a­bly not.

Fox News, then, is right in a sense. There is a war between the peo­ple and the cops, but we did not declare it. It only takes one side to declare war to estab­lish the state of war. The police — or at least the Sher­if­f’s depart­ment of Wicim­i­co Coun­ty, Mary­land — have declared war on us.

I am not mak­ing a call to arms.4 How­ev­er, this much seems absolute­ly clear: we ought not believe the manip­u­la­tion, and we cer­tain­ly should not pay for more weapons for law enforce­ment. Espe­cial­ly as most law enforce­ment agen­cies are already mil­i­ta­rized to an extent which they should no longer be con­sid­ered a civil­ian force, the pat­tern of push­ing the bal­ance of pow­er in their favor ought not be continued.

  1. Look­ing for the link to the Jerome Finni­gan case, I googled «chica­go police offi­cer mur­der-for-hire» and found that the query isn’t spe­cif­ic enough, and not because the cops in Chica­go are catch­ing so many hired assas­sins, but because so many cops in Chica­go are hir­ing or being hired as assas­sins. 
  2. I have a spread­sheet full of num­bers com­piled from data from the FBI’s Crim­i­nal Jus­tice Infor­ma­tion Ser­vices Uni­form Crime Reports. Trust me, you don’t want to look at it (but it’s all right there, so you can.) But basi­cal­ly since 1994: assaults on law enforce­ment offi­cers and the num­ber of law enforce­ment offi­cers killed in the line of duty are down, over­all and most years year-to-year, in whole num­bers, in pro­por­tion to the US pop­u­la­tion, in pro­por­tion to the part of the US pop­u­la­tion the report­ing agen­cies serve, and in pro­por­tion to the num­ber of police offi­cers employed in each year. 
  3. Specif­i­cal­ly the Arrest-Relat­ed Deaths Pro­gram Assess­ment which you also don’t want to look at if you don’t want your day ruined, too. 
  4. This is the kind of thing the Sec­ond Amend­ment was rat­i­fied for, but I still hope that’s a back­stop rather than the next line of resis­tance. 

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