Short Take: The Last Black Chief

In the litany of silly solutions that appeal to the insipid, more black police officers, along with more female cops, more black and female prosecutors and judges, has been regularly proposed. After all, people who “look like us” must have had our experiences and thus empathize with our plight. Maybe it wouldn’t fix everything, but it couldn’t hurt. At least it would provide the demographics that shallow minds demand.

In anything resembling normal times, the ascent of black cops to the top of these urban police forces would be seen as substantive racial progress. What has become hard not to notice is that these black officers, not to mention black cops on the street, are getting no support from prominent Democrats—not Joe Biden, not former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, not anyone but Donald Trump.

Over the past few weeks, three police chiefs quit.

In one day this week, two black police chiefs resigned under pressure—Renee Hall in Dallas, the first black woman to head that city’s force, and La’Ron Singletary in Rochester. Last month Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, a three-decade veteran of the force, quit in protest over the progressive City Council’s plans to defund the police.

Rochester’s Chief Singletary didn’t go quietly. In a bitter statement Tuesday, he said: “As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character.”

It’s not easy for a black person to become the chief of police of a city. Racism. It’s not easy for a woman to become the chief of police of a city. Sexism. But these chiefs made it to the top. A lot of good it did them. A lot of good it did their cities. And mostly, a lot of good it did the activist reformers who kept screaming that if only chiefs were black, if only chiefs were women, all would be solved. So much for the easy-peasy miracle cure.

And the beloved voices of social justice aren’t helping any.

Perhaps the most prominent African-American police chief resisting the progressive offensive against cops is Detroit’s James Craig.

Earlier this week a group of Democratic politicians, including Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, sent a letter to Chief Craig and other city officials urging an outside investigation into Detroit police tactics. Chief Craig fired back.

“What really disturbs me,” he said in a statement, “is that when the protesters assaulted Detroit police officers with rocks, railroad spikes and fireworks, never once did these representatives ask for an independent investigation into their violent criminal activity.”

To be fair, Tlaib hasn’t been shy about the fact that she couldn’t care less about what happens to the cops. That’s not her gig. Of course she’s not inclined to make demands on their behalf and contrary to the interests of her supporters. So what if “protesters,” who lose the mantle of protester when they attack cops, are trying to nail themselves a cop between looting Gucci and Chanel?

But what’s a chief to do? She can direct her rank and file cops to be more tolerant, less forceful, more empathetic and less brutal. Is that all it takes? He can have his picture on the wall of every muster room, a smiling black face much like the black faces of people on the streets, and is that enough to make cops start assuming that the black kid on the street is more likely to get his Ph.D. at Harvard once he gets over his childish shenanigans than sell crack or shoot someone in the back?

There is a limit to what a police chief can do in the moment. There is a limit to how swiftly a chief can turn the Titanic around, to make generations of cop culture of fear and loathing dissipate. Maybe they’re not up to the task. Maybe they are. But they’ll never get the chance because they’ve been hounded out of office, tarred with the worst characterizations that a woke person can say to smear a black person. Now they’re out. Who wants to be the next black woman to take the job to be attacked and reviled for failing to make the magic happen?

5 thoughts on “Short Take: The Last Black Chief

  1. B. McLeod

    The politics on all of this are strangely backward. It isn’t just the black chiefs but also local Democratic mayors and governing bodies that have been abandoned by the national party. They have become a problem and an embarrassment, quite out of keeping with the premise that the Democratic party is the big tent for all black people (all of whom are required to vote for Biden).

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