Who will the public call for help without police?
America’s current conversation on race has many voices and some are not very polite. The match that set this off is the shocking killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a Minneapolis police officer while three other policemen stood by and watched. America watched the video of a man being killed by officers sworn to protect and defend. The officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck is white and the three bystanders represent a mix of races.
Based on this misconduct alone police reform is required in Minneapolis. Nationally, reform is ongoing in a number of cities including Cleveland, which is under a federal consent decree.
The offending policemen have been charged. They will enter a plea or go to trial before a jury or a judge. Based on the video alone it seems inconceivable that the officers will not be convicted and sentenced to prison. The cases will be resolved in accordance with law by a criminal justice system that will impose accountability.
Lawful protestors have taken to the streets across the country expressing profound frustration and anger at what was done. But many of those protests have turned violent resulting in mob anarchy. The mob has burned and looted scores of businesses, many of them minority owned, and even torched a police district headquarters. As of this writing, a current and retired police officer, both black, have been murdered by the mob and hundreds of police and Secret Service officers have been injured in shootings, a stabbing and assaults by bricks, rocks, Molotov cocktails and assorted weapons (including cars) utilized by the violent protestors. Many injured police needed medical care. Some officers required hospitalization, including one now paralyzed and on a ventilator. People have been brutally beaten by the mob all memorialized on cellphone cameras. Unfortunately, the criminal element hijacked the peaceful protests, and the real message went up in flames.
The police and National Guard have been mostly disciplined and restrained in their response to the criminal actions and taunting by members of the mob. But what would have taken place in America’s cities, including our capital, if the police and the Guard had not been there? How far would the mob have gone? How far will it go?
America’s streets can be dangerous places, especially in the larger metropolitan areas. Streets dangerous for those who live there and for the men and women who police those streets. In 2019, 48 police officers died in the line of duty as a result of felonious acts, and 41 died in accidents.
The kind of conversation that America needs about race can’t be encouraged through rioting, looting, burning and violence in the streets. We need constructive leadership in the involved cities, states and at the national level to return some normalcy and civility to society. Where are the leaders, black and white, elected and nonelected, who should now be constructively vocal?
America needs to do far better and it will take all of us working together to do it.
One thing that does not deserve to be a part of any serious conversation is the call to “defund the police.” Black Lives Matter is reportedly collecting signatures petitioning for a national defunding of police. One of the co-founders, Melina Abdullah, has been quoted as saying, “In moments of crisis, people want services and resources that go directly to help people rather than police that surveil, brutalize and kill us.” In a rare agreement with Trump, Joe Biden has said that he does not support the nationwide “defund the police” movement.
A spokesman for Critical Resistance, a “grassroots organization” with a more extreme position, advocates abolishing policing and replacing it with “transformative justice.” Abolish the police — really?
So when the police are abolished or dismantled by budget cuts and the mob comes to your house or business to take what it wants, including even your life, who are you going to call for help?
Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Patrick McLaughlin served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio (1984-88), and as an assistant U.S. attorney (1978-84).