Yesterday afternoon, a small group of black professionals stood silently in front of the Bank of America Tower in Charlotte, North Carolina holding signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Killing Us.” One of the protesters told the Charlotte Observer, “What we want to do is show we’re not dangerous; we want to show the world it’s not thugs out here.”
Presumably, this man and his fellow silent protesters are not thugs. However, dangerous thugs were very much in evidence in rioting that occurred later on.
Worst of all, a man was shot during the protest. Initial reports were that the victim, an African-American, had died. Fortunately, this was not the case. However, at last report he was on life support and critical condition.
According to the police, the shot was not fired by an officer, but rather by a “civilian.” I guess the shooter didn’t get the word that black lives matter.
The rioting last night illustrates a central truth in the controversy over the policing of crime-ridden black neighborhoods — a truth that, for reasons of political correctness, seldom is expressed openly. That truth is this: police officers who patrol these neighborhoods must deal regularly with the people who, among other acts of vicious lawlessness, hurled stones at cars driving along the interstate; tried to throw a reporter into a fire they had set; and assaulted en masse a bystander in a parking garage.
There is bound to be tension, at least on occasion, when police officers interact with members of this violently criminal element. And there is likely to be more tension than ever now that the thugs are backed by a political movement that elevates their animosity towards the police to an ideology with mainstream support.
In the tense situations that inevitably arise from policing crime-ridden neighborhoods, police officers cannot afford to assume that the thugs wish them no harm. They need, instead, to be on high alert — all the more so in light of recent assassinations of police officers.
Thus, when an armed man refuses a police order to disarm — as allegedly occurred in Milwaukee and Charlotte — that man is likely to be shot (which is what black police officers did in these two cities), and in most cases probably should be.
There will also be instances where police officers assume a danger that couldn’t have been present (e.g., there was no gun), though these cases seem very rare. When this happens, if the misjudgment cannot be defended, the officer must face whatever consequences police rules and the criminal law impose.
But the Black Lives Matter movement and the Obama administration have misanalyzed the issue of policing crime-ridden black neighborhoods. The fundamental problem isn’t racist policing, bad cops, or poor training. The fundamental problem is rampant violent criminality that places police officers under intense pressure and makes their job far more life-threatening than it should be.
The remedy is not to encourage thugs by making them out to be victims; nor is it to induce police officers to back off, as has happened with dire consequences for black lives in Baltimore.
What is the remedy? I doubt that one exists apart from a transformation of the character of bad neighborhoods driven by improvement in family structure and a surge in personal responsibility (a surge made less likely by blaming the police for inner-city woes). But it would be helpful to do a better job of keeping criminals off the street by addressing our under-incarceration problem.