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Dear Ricochet readers.
I need your help. I’m conflicted. I’m struggling to come to grips with my feelings on all this. Actually, I’m struggling to push aside my feelings and let logic and reason run the show. Like many of you, the best way for me to do that is to write about it.
A few weeks ago, when police were alienating many of us by chasing surfers off the beach and arresting moms for taking their kids to the park, I remember thinking to myself that one day, those police officers are going to need the support of people like me. One day they’ll be sitting at home complaining to their spouses that the public just doesn’t appreciate and support them like they used to. Well, fast forward a week or two, and it turns out that one day is today. Police behavior is at the heart of the current unrest in some of our major cities, and the cops could sure use some friends right now.
I’ve been giving the subject of policing a lot of thought lately. It started as my anger was growing over the government overreach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I mostly blame ill-informed and maybe even politically motivated (pronounced Democratic) politicians, but it was hard to escape the fact that the street-level face of all those insane restrictions was the police. Government was making terrible policy, but the police were the ones enforcing that policy. “Just following orders” has been pretty much discredited as a defense as I recall. I sense that a lot of police officers knew that the policy they were executing was ill-advised, but few individual officers felt that this was the hill upon which they were willing to die. Police unions could have and should have stepped in to preserve the integrity of those they represent, but they failed to do that. Maybe they shared the government’s view that the policies were appropriate. Most Americans apparently do. That’s too bad. In the long run, it damaged the image of the police only days before that image would come to matter the most. As a rule, I don’t have much affection for police unions. I see them as just another public sector union seeking benefits for their members at the expense of the rest of us. The irony is not lost on me that I saw them as a potential solution to a real problem back then. Now, it seems like just one more data point in support of my view that all public sector unions are a menace to good governance.
Now we are witnessing scenes of rioting and looting in response to what appears to be criminal behavior by one or more police officers in Minneapolis. The tarnished image of the police is certainly not improved any when the Minneapolis Chief of Police admits that he withdrew officers from the scene of the worst of the rioting out of concerns for their (the police) safety. What in the world is going on here? The police were all on board when it came to arresting business owners who were trying to keep their heads above water and preserve what was for many, their life’s work. But when it came to protecting life and property from an unruly mob, you know, their actual job, that was just too risky.
I don’t hate the police and I sure wouldn’t want their job. Maybe part of the problem is the mindset of some of the applicants who do want that job. My understanding is that police forces take measures to weed out those officers. I sure hope that is the case, but I guess that is an ongoing and imperfect process. And to be honest, when I see video of rioters swarming an abandoned police vehicle or frantically looting the local Target, or burning down the neighborhood AutoZone, I think what the cops need to do is just shoot a few of those sons of [redacted] and keep shooting them until they go home. Yeah, I know. That would be an overreaction and be totally counterproductive. I get it. But tell the truth. Aren’t there at least a few of you honest enough to admit that your first reaction was the same as mine? No? Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe that video of looters beating up a lady in a wheelchair trying to obstruct their looting doesn’t really bother you all that much. For my own part, to be honest, I did kind of enjoy the sight of those rampaging nitwits throwing rocks through the windows of CNN Center in Atlanta. I know it’s wrong. I feel kind of guilty about that.
Here’s what I think I know. We need the police. And the police need to act with authority. Police must rely on the illusion that their authority is near absolute or else every two-bit hoodlum may choose to test the limits of that authority. Police need to be tough, even to the point of appearing uncompromising at times. But acting with authority is just that, an act. At the end of the day, they don’t have anywhere near enough manpower to police a population that doesn’t consent and desire to be policed. I think the police know that. Antifa and the rest of their ilk certainly know that. They are probing, and provoking, and testing the application of that knowledge even as we speak. And people like you and I should know that as well once we push away all the emotion and sit down to rationally fit all the pieces together. We’ll get through this. Minneapolis will get through this. Our nation will get through this. We have to. We’re seeing the alternative on our TVs and computer screens, and it’s an alternative that is too terrible to contemplate.
Thanks for listening, Ricochet readers. I feel a little better now. Thoughts?Published in