Trouble in Memphis

On January 7 in Memphis, Tennessee, a number of police officers were videotaped beating a young black man to death.  It was a horrible scene, and it reminded many of us of the Rodney King and George Floyd incidents.  Though not privy to all the details, I can think of no valid excuse for police actions in any of these instances.  Sometimes officers are ill-trained, at other times they may be stupid and malicious.  And there is no doubt that evil policemen do exist.  I continue to believe, however, that the vast majority of policemen are good and honorable men doing the best job they can under very difficult conditions.

It should be noted that all the persons involved in the Memphis affair, police and victim, were black.  That fact does not prevent the professional agitators from exploiting the incident to attack our law enforcement establishment, but perhaps it explains why there have thus far been no massive protests like those in the summer of 2020.

Truth is, as once pointed out by Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute, “the police could end all lethal uses of force tomorrow and it would have a trivial effect on the black death by homicide rate.”   When she wrote those words more than 7,000 black Americans had been victims of homicide in 2015, more than 90% being killed by other blacks.  Only 258 of these black victims were killed by police, and all but about twenty of these persons were reportedly armed and threatening a police officer with lethal force.

The anti-police riots that followed the Ferguson and George Floyd tragedies caused officers in many cities to back-off from proactive law enforcement.  No policeman wishes to be labelled a racist and perhaps lose his or her livelihood.  As a result, arrests and summons went down, and crime rates soared.  Inner city blacks are the ones hurt the most.  The number of black murder victims in 2020 was approximately 10,000, a 42% increase over 2015.  The rate continues to climb.

There are about 50 million blacks in the United States and more than 800 thousand police officers. Many million encounters take place between police and black civilians every year. Sometimes mistakes are made or an accident happens that results in the death of an unarmed black. Much more rarely, the fatality is because of the deliberate act of a bad policeman. On average, a black or Latino policeman is more likely to use lethal force than his or her white comrade. Over the past decade, around fifteen to twenty unarmed blacks are killed by police each year, and each occasion is fraught with the possibility of anti-police agitation.

The death of an innocent black is certainly a tragedy, but these statistics prove that police are not the threat to black lives that some maintain. Indeed, the absence of police protection is lethal to the black community.


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