If you believe the liberal media, there is really no difference between the police and the Ku Klux Klan, there is no justice in America for African-Americans, and the United States is really no different from Nazi Germany. “Black lives are expendable,” and terrorized African-American parents are forced to have “the conversation” with their young children, warning them that any random encounter with the police could lead to their “summary execution.” African-American men are being “stalked and hunted” by “lawless cops,” even “lynched” in open view on America’s streets, victims of the “insatiable bloodlust” of a thoroughly racist society. Thanks to the “virus of white supremacy” not only are we witnessing “the oppression of black bodies,” there is in fact underway a “genocide” of black people in America.
And we know all the names by now of African-American men wrongfully killed by the police. George Floyd. Freddie Gray. Eric Garner. Maybe the liberals are right, so many senseless deaths, a sad record of “savagery and carnage.” For the last decade, the police kill on average just over a thousand people annually, of which several dozen turn out to have been unarmed or innocent, or both. What are we to make of all of this, and what is to be done about it?
Well, I find the overall number of people killed annually by the police to be simply astonishing. Astonishingly low, that is. There are just under a million police officers in America, and annually there are a bit over a million violent crimes committed in our country. So, in the course of a year, only one cop in a thousand ever kills someone. Or put another way, over 365 days, working three shifts daily, summing up to over a billion eight-hour cop-shifts, someone gets killed by a cop once per million times a cop goes out to patrol a beat.
And I have read the same names a hundred times over the last week. Yes, what happened to George Floyd, Freddie Gray, and Eric Garner are all tragedies, and arguably crimes. But behind the daily drumbeat about police brutality, all the liberals in the media have to recite the same, fairly limited list of victims. All in all, I can count at most a dozen or so seemingly outrageous cases. Now, twelve seems like a lot, evidence of massive wrong-doing, except that these cases span over the last decade. So really, in a country of over 300 million people, and over the course of 10 years, we are really talking about a minuscule number of egregious incidents, statistically speaking.
Now forgive the digression into jet engine manufacturing. You may reasonably wonder, what’s that got to do with any of this. Hear me out. There is a popular approach to manufacturing called Six Sigma, a process for virtually eliminating mistakes with very sophisticated statistical analysis. Basically, with Six Sigma, you can make a million widgets, with a defect rate of one in a million. So, a good example would be making parts for jet engines, like in a General Electric factory. Now, in GE’s plants that manufacture jet engine parts, they operate in an environment of perfect information, powerful computers can track every step in making every component. Oh, and incidentally, they operate in an environment of complete safety.
Now compare that to policing a beat, particularly in a high-crime neighborhood. Cops are human beings, not computers, they have to survey and analyze their environment with the all-too-human and imperfect senses of sight and hearing. There may be a dozen things going on at once, and even the smartest person can only imperfectly and only partially process all the perceptions on the street. It may be dark. There may be armed criminals lurking in the shadows. There are likely innocent bystanders around. So, every day, every hour, a cop is trying to do an often-difficult job, in a potentially dangerous environment, and he or she may be confronted with situations where they have literally a second or two to respond to a possible threat, possibly a lethal threat.
Guess what? Mistakes will naturally happen. What amazes me is that under such difficult circumstances, cops make so few mistakes. Imagine working a job where you have to sometimes make split-second life-and-death decisions, and the price of being wrong may mean your death or your partner's, or the death of an innocent person. And with the knowledge that whatever decision you make, it will be reviewed and you may be prosecuted if someone with the easy comfort of hindsight decides your decision was wrong.
There is a reason it is hard to convict cops for accidental killings of innocent people. Our courts have established a doctrine of qualified immunity that protects officers from prosecution for “reasonable but mistaken judgments” in the course of executing their duties. Liberals want to strip our police of that protection, which would make it impossible for them to continue doing their duty. Some of the advocates of this idea maybe just be naïve and misguided, but I suspect some openly welcome the idea of a lawless society once we have effectively made policing unviable.
Pernicious liberal propaganda that the police are murderers in uniform makes policing more difficult and more dangerous by whipping up a hostile attitude towards the police, particularly in the neighborhoods where effective policing is most urgently needed. It erodes the respect that all law-abiding citizens owe our police. And by artificially creating fear of the police, it undermines the cooperation of people with their local police, with the result that our communities are less safe. Finally, it needlessly scares young African-Americans, who mistakenly fear that every cop they see is going to shoot them down like a dog. But this propaganda campaign, and it is a campaign, does serve the political purposes of liberals, by alienating African-Americans from the police and advocates of law and order. It also serves the even more sinister purposes of hard-left radicals who want to pull down all the pillars of American civilization and carry out their own nightmarish dreams amidst the rubble.
Our Officers in Blue deserve our deepest and most heartfelt appreciation for the difficult and dangerous job they do, day in and day out. They really are the Thin Blue Line that makes it possible for the rest of us to enjoy our lives in safety and freedom. And they also need our understanding, our recognition that they are simply human, and to not have unreasonable and unfair expectations of them.