Blame Me, Cop Edition

It’s terrible that police officer deaths in the line of duty are up 43% this year over last.  Not because the death of police officers, regardless of how “line of duty” is defined, are more significant than the death of any other person, but because the untimely death of a person who happens to be a police officer is as significant and unfortunate.

That doesn’t make it my fault, however.  Via FoxNews :

Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said the number of officer fatalities fluctuates from year to year. However, he said he has noticed an “alarming frequency” of people targeting police.

“There has been a spate of particularly brutal and senseless attacks on the police,” said O’Donnell, a former police officer and prosecutor in New York. “It seems to me, an unprecedented level of disrespect and willingness to challenge police officers all over the place.”

He said a rise in mental health problems and scathing criticism of police, such as the comments found on some blogs, could be fueling the brazenness and disregard for authority.

Could that be true?  Possibly, though there’s absolutely nothing to suggest it aside from O’Donnell’s facile use of the statistic to lash out at “enemies of the police.”  Hey, why not?  You love police.  You hate critics of police.  The opportunity is available, and it’s not like people think hard enough to realize that you’re just making it up.  At least some people will buy it, in any event.

I don’t buy it.  Aside from the total absence of any substantive basis to support the claim, and despite the fact that many of the deaths were the result of vehicular negligence (yeah, maybe people were negligent because they were reading SJ on their Kindle while driving.  It could happen.), let’s consider this in terms of cause and effect.

The content here about police is almost invariably in reaction to something a police officer has done.or failed to do.  We(meaning bloggers who are disinclined to be police apologists) don’t make them do it.  If it was up to us, they wouldn’t do it.  It’s not, and they do it anyway.  Only then do we write. 

But O’Donnell claims that our highlighting and criticizing wrongdoing on the part of police “[fuels] the brazenness and disregard for authority.”  Well, yeah, guilty on the disregard for authority part. But there is a monumental leap, even if it were factually connected, between criticizing police and the “brazenness”, assuming there’s a factual basis for such a claim, with which people deal with cops. 

Clearly, the expectation of people like O’Donnell is that the public should obey and be compliant.  I can hear the choir in the background singing, “it’s a very hard job to be a cop.”  The song strikes a sour note.  Contrary to the viewpoint of some police officers, as well as academics like O’Donnell who view the citizenry as existing to be subject to authority, it’s not our job as human beings to be compliant with the every whim of the cops.  They’re the ones being paid to “protect and serve,” not to dominate and control.  Worse yet, not to engage in conduct that results in the needless death of people at their hands.  We’re getting just a wee bit tired of hearing the police officer say “oops, it was an accident.”

The problem, at least for me, is that the needless deaths of people at the hands of police are just as tragic as the needless deaths of police officers.  The difference is that when a police officer dies at the hand of a criminal, it’s at the hand of a criminal.  Criminals are, by definition, functioning outside the law, and are behaving in a way that society does not tolerate.  Criminals are not the bar by which police officer conduct is judged.  When deaths occur at the hands of police officers, they can’t be excused because of the behavior of criminals.  Society expects police officers to conduct themselves better than criminals.

And so bloggers are critical when police officers engage in misconduct, abuse, stupidity and violence.  We do so because police officers behave this way.  We do so because other police officers conceal and excuse such behavior by their blue brothers.  We do not cause this behavior, and we’re not responsible for it happening.

If there is any truth whatsoever to O’Donnell’s claim, and I doubt there is, then don’t place the deaths of police officers at our feet.  Cops act.  We react.  If you want to change the equation, go to the source.  And if the complaint is that those of us who report or opine on the improper and criminal conduct of cops encourage or enable those who are otherwise inclined to do harm to police, then there’s an easy way to shut us up.  Stop the misconduct, abuse, stupidity and violence.

What a glorious day it would be if there was nothing negative to say about cops. 

H/T Balko

8 thoughts on “Blame Me, Cop Edition

  1. Windypundit

    Well said, Scott. If O’Donnell is trying to blame police deaths on increased criticism of police, it’s only fair to ask if increased criticism of police is due to increased police misconduct. Also, if he’s going to complain about “disrespect and willingness to challenge police officers” he really should explain why that’s a bad thing. If you believe people should be responsible for their actions, then bad cops deserve our disrespect.

  2. SHG

    Your comment just made me think of something else: Maybe it’s not increased police misconduct, but the clarity or certainty of it based on the increase in the pervasiveness of video.  There were always allegations, but now we can see it happen, and suddenly the old lies and excuses don’t wash.

  3. Professor Nutbutter

    I think the increase in risk springs from repeated and systematic violations of the 9 Peelian Principles of Policing:

    #1 The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
    #2 The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.
    #3 Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
    #4 The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
    #5 Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
    #6 Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice, and warning is found to be insufficient.
    #7 Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
    #8 Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions, and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
    #9 The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

  4. Steven G. Erickson

    There are over 3x more cops on the streets than there were just a few short years ago. Cops killing each other is probably up 43% too. If you are knee deep in Cops and they are only out acting as Armed Revenue Collectors and Corporate Bankster thugs, I can see why people are getting more and more upset with them. It isn’t okay to kill or injure cops. It is okay to defend yourself in your own home against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If police are policing themselves, they end up being worse than the criminals that they’re supposed to protect us from. Courts and police could do with some Civilian Oversight.

  5. Ernie Menard

    I agree, very well said.

    I’ve recently began thinking that one tiny piece of evidence that we are not moving towards a more authoritarian or even totalitarian exercise of government is the posting of police misconduct incidents on the internet.

    Further and however slightly, the number of people imprisoned will continue to diminish as facially false allegations by LEO’s are shown to be just that by virtue of the camera armed citizens. I speculate that Mr. O’Donnell is aware of these multiple instances of persons being falsely charged and only officially exonerated after publication of the police misconduct by some otherwise innocent criminal-with-a-camera. I wonder whether he considers the number of these actually innocent people not in jail of any import whatsoever or of less import, or, import outweighed by what he perceives as an increase in police deaths due to criticisms?

  6. Lee

    Why a stat as specific as 3x more cops attached to a time period as vague as “a few short years ago?” Did you pull this stat out of your ass? I sincerely doubt that the number of police in America has tripled even in say that last 10 years.

  7. AKAZIP

    If you doubt it so much, why don’t you supply your own statistics, instead of attacking the writer? You put yourself in the same position as the person you are trying to discredit. Are you an LEO or apologist?

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