Is it time to end policing—as was recently insisted by a member of the majority party in the United States House of Representatives? In response to the shooting death of Duante Wright, Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan tweeted in part, “No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. It can’t be reformed,” equating policing with “government funded murder.”
In her opinion, the shooting was not an accident because “Policing in our country is inherently & intentionally racist.” The police officer who—by all appearances—mistakenly deployed a pistol instead of a Taser is guilty of murder, no matter her intent.
Rep. Tlaib is wrong.
Policing is a core function of government. While the Left appears intent on destroying it, policing is fundamental to a civil society because small portions of society tend to not be civil when left to their own devices. Repeat criminals may make up a very small percentage of our communities, but they commit a disproportionate number of the crimes. Without law enforcement pressure, there will be little to no restraint on their criminal impulses, something that very likely accounts for the skyrocketing crime rates in all of our major cities.
It has become so common for the Left to claim that anything they disagree with is racist that the term has lost much of its definition and most of its impact. And that is shameful; genuine racism should still generate a visceral disgust where it is found. But using it as a constant bludgeon against those with different policy positions weakens the term, our reaction to it, and the strength of the argument of those using it. Policing is not a racist institution. Police officers spend a lot of time protecting minority lives, lives that are exponentially more often lost as victims of crime than at the hands of police officers.
For Rep. Tlaib to use the Minnesota shooting, which by all accounts appears to have been a tragic accident, as an example of systemic racism is reprehensible and destructive. It contributes to the rioting we are seeing, it disincentivizes proactive policing to quell rising violent crime, and suppresses the hiring of good recruits into the profession.
Policing is becoming increasingly more difficult to recruit for, and the already low number of minority police officers will not be helped by this sort of anti-police rhetoric. Should we be surprised that there are smaller numbers of Black applicants for law enforcement positions with the constant drumbeat declaring cops are racist? Who would want to go work with an agency that that hates them, after all?
The truth is that Black police officers are needed, and that the police subculture, officers see each other as blue, without regard to skin color, sex, religion, etc.
Maybe if potential police recruits knew that they would be welcomed into the police family regardless of their skin color or other identifiers that divide the rest of society, they would pick up an application and serve their communities alongside others committed to the same goal. They could be proud of the badge they wear and the oath they take and not feel that they are betraying their race in the process.
I stand by my initial analysis that the shooting in Minnesota was accidental. Still, that doesn’t make it any less tragic, so how do we prevent it in the future? Better training.
The officer apparently made the proper judgment call (a cognitive skill) to use the Taser, but then failed in the application of the tool (a physical skill). Physical skills, such as grabbing the proper tool and properly using it, are perishable skills that require constant training to maintain, more so than cognitive skills like de-escalation, decision-making, and communication. Most police departments do the bare minimum on physical skills training and retraining, and that is woefully inadequate. Training once per year with a Taser, handgun, baton, and personal weapons might check a box for a state mandate or department policy, but does little to maintain or improve the officers’ skills with those tools.
Imagine a baseball player who practiced hitting one time per year and then went into the season with that level of preparation. Any decision a baseball player will make, and any action they perform, is of far less consequence than that of a police officer. And yet, that is what we often do with our police officers under the best of economic conditions.
Guess what the first thing to get cut is when we defund the police? That’s right—training.