BY WILLIAM B. SCOTT
In the wake of grand jury decisions to not indict two police officers, who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, persistent protests erupted across the United States. These led to senseless attacks against police officers, including two New York City cops, killed as they sat in their patrol car. Unfortunately, such reprehensible, inexcusable shootings were predictable—and will continue, unless timely, pragmatic action is taken.
Activists, media analysts and politicians have focused on myriad “causes” for the unrest—race-based unfairness, a perceived pro-police bias within the judiciary, mendacious cops, legal system deficiencies, and other issues—to explain the recent backlash against an epidemic of citizen fatalities at the hands of police officers.
Overshadowed by rightful outrage and angst that followed the insane execution of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in New York is an equally alarming fact: In 2014, police officers killed 1,100 people, an average of three every day of the year. (KilledByPolice.net) That figure contrasts with 126 law enforcement officers killed in 2014, according to an annual report released by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Fifty officers were killed with guns, and 15 of those were via “ambush assaults,” matching a 2012 total. Attacks on cops have been increasing over the past few years, although police work is much safer today than it was in the 1970s.
These statistics should be a loud-and-clear wakeup call for every American. Unless leaders at the federal, state and local levels openly acknowledge that there’s a dark, disturbing correlation between the deaths of 1,100 citizens and a rash of intentional, random attacks on police officers, this nation will be condemned to thousands more heartbreaking funerals in 2015.
Indignant police union leaders’ demands that Congress label attacks on uniformed officers as “hate crimes” have yielded chilly, skeptical receptions. Equally irate American citizens are demanding practical, substantive changes in police policies, practices and training—realistic solutions that hold quick-to-shoot cops accountable, yet protect good, honorable officers, who daily live their oaths to protect and serve.
Worried public officials from the White House to local mayors’ offices and city councils are scrambling to appease angry, fed up, disaffected citizens and embattled police officers, before outright armed rebellion explodes into nationwide chaos. Most public officials fully understand that citizens are fed up with post-shooting patronization: “We’re conducting a thorough investigation to determine exactly what occurred.” “We’ll change policies, procedures and practices to make sure this never happens again.” And the tired granddaddy of all, “We’ll improve officer training.”
On the other side, upstanding, professional police officers are frustrated by protests and repercussions attributed to the misdeeds, questionable shootings, chokings and general abuse committed by their uniformed compatriots. Consequently, the chasm between disheartened cops and exasperated, infuriated citizens continues to widen.
Police officers and taxpayers of all races and creeds, from Los Angeles to New York, must face several inescapable truths: Unless drastic improvements are made, the only elements guaranteed to change will be cops’ annual body count and the number of attacks on police officers. And race isn’t the primary factor driving either police brutality or ambushes on cops. Despite what we’re told by the media, high-profile activists and police unions, many of today’s sworn officers are equal-opportunity abusers and killers. They shoot to kill, without regard for ethnicity or creed.
Something must be done to drastically curb police brutality and killing, as well as egregious attacks on police officers, then rebuild trust between citizens and the U.S. law enforcement community, before outrage ignites a shooting war.
William B. Scott is a former bureau chief for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, a Flight Test Engineer graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and author of The Permit, a thriller based on his eldest son’s death.