RICHARDS: The Democratic Crime Bill Will End Policing As We Know It

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Maurice Richards Former Chief of Police, Martinsburg WV
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The Biden White House is ratcheting up the pressure to pass the anti-police George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. The bill is a Black Lives Matter dream that would turn the Marxist group’s program to abolish the police into reality. This proposal is seriously dangerous and must not be approved — in any form.  All Republicans and any Democrats who still believe in the rule of law and saving black lives must stand up to stop it.  A legitimate police reform bill should be enacted after 2022 when American Patriots regain majorities in Congress.  It is time for police chiefs and leaders to stand up and speak out.

The sponsor of the BLM-inspired bill is Democratic California Rep. Karen Bass, a strident anti-police activist. This bill is poison because its entire foundation is built upon the lie that American policing is systemically racist.  As we know from a year of deadly Black Lives Matter/Antifa mob violence, riots and intimidation, those who believe that policing as an institution is systemically racist do not want to improve the police — they want to destroy the police.

While every aspect of the bill is designed to undermine law enforcement, two provisions would directly dismantle the police and result in thousands more black people being killed. First, the bill would strip away the protection of qualified immunity for individual officers, causing officers to leave the job or retreat from fighting crime. Second, by instituting a race-based enforcement quota system, vital police resources would be diverted from high violent crime communities.

Qualified immunity protects individual police officers from civil lawsuits so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established law or constitutional rights of which a reasonable officer would have known. It does not protect police officers who knowingly violate a person’s constitutional rights. It is ironic that the anti-police legislators who drafted the bill enjoy absolute immunity. These hypocrites didn’t strip away their protection from civil liability.

Qualified immunity is an essential foundation of policing. It protects police officers from frivolous lawsuits resulting from simply doing their jobs. Police officers must be able to respond to incidents and make split-second decisions based upon the facts known and their understanding of the law at the time.  This must be done without the fear that they will be later found unconstitutional and civilly liable.

Without this legal protection, police will hesitate to act or simply retreat from proactively engaging criminals. The devastating effect on morale has already been seen in New York City, where, along with other anti-police measures, the City Council voted to abolish qualified immunity. New York Police Department (NYPD) retirements and resignations have skyrocketed, and violent crime is out of control — with most of the victims black citizens. If the crime bill passes, this disaster will be replicated across the country.

But the Democrat crime bill contains a much more insidious provision that would end modern policing as we know it and result in the deaths of thousands more black lives every year.

Although debunked, radical leftists maintain that any disparity between blacks and whites, (when they disfavor blacks) — is proof of systemic racism. Derived from critical race theory, leftists apply this superficial race-based analysis to every aspect of society — from educational test scores, to economic success, to contact with the police. For the left, racism — instead of personal behavior, individual choices, family structure or internalized values — is the cause of all disparate results. It is essential for Black Lives Matter, the Democratic Party, and leftist elites that black people embrace the identity of victimhood. They profess to champion black people, but the bottom line is that they believe blacks are incapable of personal agency — unable to demonstrate self control over their lives and lack the ability to shape their own destinies. As noted by Brown University Professor Glenn Loury and Columbia University Professor John McWhorter, this patronizing and condescending view of black people, “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” is the real racism.

This “disparity equals racism” nonsense is the foundation of the entire “policing is systemically racist” myth, but the fabrication that there is an epidemic of police killing black people is a proven lie. The most definitive study to date shows that 55% of all people fatally shot in America by the police are white — more than double the number of black (27%) or Hispanics (19%). Racial disparities in police shootings are not caused by racism. Crime data shows the strongest predictor of being shot by the police is not race, but whether the person is engaging in violent criminal behavior. So, the guaranteed way to reduce the number of fatal shootings by the police for any racial group is simple — don’t commit crime.

The myth that unarmed black people in particular are victims of racist police shootings is another lie. In 2019, out of more than 50 million police-citizen encounters in the United States, 14 unarmed blacks were fatally shot by the police (along with 19 whites that went virtually unreported by the media). How rare is this? An unarmed black person is three times more likely to be struck by lightning than being fatally shot by the police.

Recent data is even more compelling. In 2020, the police killed 15 unarmed blacks and 21 unarmed whites (also unreported by media). And, as we know from Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice investigation into the 2014 Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, “unarmed” does not necessarily mean “not posing a deadly threat.”  Last year, the number of black homicides increased to 8,600. The 15 unarmed blacks killed by the police represent 0.17% of these deaths. This is not systemic racism.

The crime bill would inject the systemic racism fraud of disparate statistics into every aspect of policing. Any law enforcement activity — traffic stops, citations, investigatory stops, arrests or prosecutions that have a statistically disparate impact on blacks, regardless of criminal behavior, will be considered proof of racial profiling. Any police department or prosecutor’s office with disparate enforcement statistics due to crime would be subjected to federal intervention and oversight. This would be the end of policing and result in a catastrophic increase in black violent crime and homicide victims.

Black Americans, particularly young black men, are being killed in American cities at a shocking rate — but not by the police. The real problem is not systemic police racism, but violent crime in the black community. In 2018, police shot and killed 996 people, 209 of whom were black — 90% armed and 95% attacking someone. The same year, there were 14,123 homicides in the United States. The number of black victims was 7,407, with 93% killed by black offenders. In 2020, black homicides spiked to 8,600. This is the real violence epidemic in the black community, and to try to stop it, police go where the crime is.

Today’s policing is data driven. To protect decent citizens and arrest the criminals who are trying to harm them, most of a police department’s resources and manpower are sent into neighborhoods with the highest rates of violent crime. In most American big cities, these neighborhoods are black.

Compstat (Computerized Statistics) was developed by the NYPD in the mid 1990’s and was adopted by many departments across the country. The data driven approach, in combination with proactive policing to engage and arrest violent criminals, resulted in significant reduction in violent crime led by the Chicago and New York police departments.  The police have saved tens of thousands of lives, mostly in the black community. Black residents of the inner cities understand the Thin Blue Line protecting their families from violent thugs and overwhelmingly support the police. Eighty-one percent of black Americans want the same number or more police in their communities.

If the crime bill passes, there would be only two ways to obtain its race-based enforcement quotas. One would be to arrest white people for crimes they have not committed — a racist and unconstitutional response.

The only other way to meet the race quotas will be to arrest drastically fewer violent black offenders. This will be accomplished either by assigning the same numbers of police to high-crime black neighborhoods but expect them to sit back and watch crime happen without responding. Or more likely, distribute officers evenly across all communities and not have enough officers physically present in the black neighborhoods to apprehend the offenders. Either way, the result will be more dead black citizens.

During 2020, Democrat-run cities that followed the Black Lives Matter script — defunding the police and allowing BLM/antifa mobs to riot without consequences, saw violent crime and homicides increase by as much as 1,600%. Passage of this bill will make such violence the new normal for all Americans.

We need police leadership to stand up, but police chiefs and leaders who have confronted the lie of systemic police racism have been few and far between. We are faced with an existential crisis and time is running out. If the anti-police crime bill is not stopped, policing in America will be dead.

We can still save policing in America, but the days of kneeling before the Mob must be over. It is time for police chiefs and all law enforcement leaders to stand up for the rule of law, the safety of our communities, the integrity of the police and for the 800,000 men and women of American law enforcement who serve their fellow Americans with commitment, courage and honor.

Maurice Richards is the former Chief of the Martinsburg Police Department in West Virginia.   He served as Chief from 2015 to 2020 after 24 years as an officer and lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department. Richards holds a doctorate in Adult Education from Northern Illinois University.