Diversity vs. Freedom (contd.): Police Paralysis Spreading…

In Cincinnati, as I noted in a column last month, city police seem to be giving up on
enforcing the law—because whenever they do enforce it,
they risk ruining their careers and lives by being
accused of “racial profiling,” “police
brutality” or just plain “bigotry” pure and
simple. But Cincinnati is not the only city where the
crooks have won.

In Seattle—like Cincinnati, the
scene of serious race riots earlier
this year
—what the cops themselves call
“depolicing” is the latest trend. Depolicing is
simply the practice of not performing in black areas the
police functions that are routine in other areas—like
making traffic stops or arrests of black suspects.
“De-policing,” as a recent
news story
in the Seattle
defines it, “is passive law enforcement:
Officers consciously stop trying to prevent low-level
crime and simply react to 911 calls.” Why shouldn`t
police stop trying when actively enforcing the law only
results in lawsuits, being fired, or an outright legal
charge that could land you in prison?

One Seattle police veteran of 17
years told the Times,
“Parking under a shady tree to work on a crossword
puzzle is a great alternative to being labeled a racist
and being dragged through an inquest, a review board, an
FBI and U.S. Attorney`s investigation and a

Needless to say, crime in the
areas where depolicing is taking place goes up, and
guess who`s the first to whine about the police not
doing their job? “Black community leaders,” of
course. As the Times notes, “Black community leaders
said … they won`t accept lax law enforcement; the
police are paid to protect the public, even when it
means taking heat.” Maybe the “black community
leaders” might like to enforce the laws themselves.

And Cincinnati and Seattle
aren`t the only cities where racial and political
attacks on the police have helped the cops improve their
vocabularies with crossword puzzles. The New
York Times
(July 30, 2001, “Urban Police Jobs Are Losing Their
Appeal”) that it`s happening all over the country:
veteran police officers leaving the force for better
paying jobs in private security firms, record low
numbers of applicants to the force, and record low
numbers of officers taking the required exams for
promotion—to sergeant, lieutenant, police chief. As
the Times
notes, there are economic reasons for the trend, but
police all over the nation are also “discouraged by
seemingly constant public and news media criticism about
police brutality and racial

In Los Angeles, “where the
police have been buffeted by scandals since the Rodney
beating in 1991,” a miserable total of 19
recruits turned up in the police academy class this
summer, a record low. In Detroit, where the police
department is being grilled by a federal investigation
of civil rights violations and two white police officers
were sent to prison after being railroaded for the death
of a black drug dealer in 199?, “600 to 700 officers
have resigned in the last five years,” and more than
1,000 have retired in the same period. In New York City,
more than 1,700 officers left the force last year, a
third more than the year before. The trend is clear:
nobody wants to put up with the grief — not only the
danger of the job itself, but also the risk of being
ruined if you even do the job—and those who don`t
have to put up with it, aren`t.

If the trend continues, the future
of American urban life may well become even bleaker than
it already is. Not only have industries, businesses, and
taxpayers deserted the cities for the suburbs but now so
are the police themselves. That means the only people
still left inside the cities will be the criminals, who
can enjoy the empire they`ve conquered in barbaric
splendor. It`s the future depicted in the 1981 movie, “Escape
from New York,”
where the whole city has been
turned into a gigantic penal colony.

It`s a future that was
predictable. How long does anyone, even “black
community leaders,” believe you can abuse, insult,
endanger, and punish
policemen before they simply take a walk? How long can
you construct every conceivable obstacle to performing
the job the “community” demands they perform until
the job simply no longer can be performed at all?

What we are now seeing is the
culmination of a trend against the police (and for that
matter against any and all established authority) that
began in the 1960s, and it may well end in the
extinction of the professional law enforcement that has
made civilized life in large-scale cities possible. If
that happens, either large-scale cities will simply
revert to the jungles from which they came, or else some
other force will emerge that will enforce order—and it
probably won`t be in the mood to pay much attention to
any complaints about brutality and bigotry. 


August 06,