Saturday, November 26, 2016

As police killings rise, society suffers - Editorial from "The Ledger" - 11.26.16

Photo published for Editorial: As police killings rise, society suffers

Lisa Tuozzolo at the funeral on 11.10.16 for her husband, Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo killed on 11.4.16 in the Bronx, NY. 

As police killings rise, society suffers

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Three months ago Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who pledged to be the law-and-order candidate, called for an end to the “war on our police.” Trump did so just after Milwaukee erupted in rioting after a black suspect was shot and killed by police. Last month, the liberal news website Huffington Post declared Trump’s assertion “bunk.”
The Post, citing FBI data and academics who study crime and policing, pointed out that 2015 was one of the safest years on record in terms of law enforcement officers who were feloniously killed — as opposed to dying in vehicle crashes, for instance — in the line of duty.
Forty-one police officers were intentionally killed in 2015, with a record low recorded in 2013, 27. Last year’s total was just two-thirds of the average of 64 officers killed annually since 1980, and a third of the number killed each year in the early 1970s, according to the Post.
“Any suggestion in the political arena that there is a ‘war on cops,’ is symbolic political crime control rhetoric exaggerated by the fact that it is an election year,” Philip Stinson, a retired police officer and now a criminologist at Bowling Green State University, told the Post.
We think, however, that the Post and its sources would have a difficult time convincing those who actually patrol our streets or their families that they aren’t under siege.
On Thanksgiving Day, Collin Rose, 29, a K-9 officer at Wayne State University, died from gunshot wounds he sustained earlier in the week after encountering a suspect. Rose became the 61st police officer shot to death this year, based on a tally by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks violence against police.
The dramatic rise in police killings is disturbing enough in itself. But one-third of those slain in 2016 so far were victims of ambush killings — which police organizations say are typically defined by an element of surprise, assailants who conceal themselves, their weapons or their intents and a lack of provocation — and The Washington Post reported this week that such attacks have hit a 10-year high.
Police officers have been murdered while sitting in their patrol cars, eating meals, as they exited their vehicles in responding to calls.
That number of ambush murders might have crept higher last week had a pair of suspects in Alabama not suddenly gotten cold feet. The pair, who are black, planted a fake bomb at an elementary school and intended to shoot responding cops in order to start a “race war.” Authorities were not sure why they backed out of the murderous part of their plot.
Police work is inherently risky for those who choose to serve. They understand it can be dangerous, and that at any time some people they encounter can be violent, anti-social, mentally ill or unpredictable.
But what eludes those who criticize Trump, police union leaders and politicians for using the “war” rhetoric is the mindset that underpins such violence.
While some observers attribute the attacks on police to strained race relations and a desire for retaliation for perceived injustice suffered by black community in some areas, that doesn’t tell the whole story, as race is not a factor in all of these killings.
Rather, suspects who are willing to shoot and kill police without provocation exhibit a contempt toward authority and an orderly society. As Craig Floyd, president of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, recently told Fox News, “So much dialogue has centered around race relations, but there is a hatred in this country right now that's just gotten out of control. There is a lack of respect for government in general, and the most visible and vulnerable symbol of government in America is patrolling our streets in marked cars."
This violence, of course, threatens police directly. But the rest of us are affected in an indirect way. In one way, pure self-defense might lead police to ramp up militarism and community crackdowns. Or, as has been reported, police departments across the country are reporting that it’s become more difficult to find new recruits, and that they are sacrificing standards in order to compensate. That, in turn, could mean less qualified people who patrolling our streets, which could mean more incidents that cause police-community relations to deteriorate.
The “war” language might be a bit overblown, but it encapsulates the destructive nature of this threat to the safety and stability our society — and whatever we label it, we need to solve it sooner rather than later.

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