Baton Rouge Police Murders And What It Means for Law Enforcement


Baton Rouge Police Murders And What It Means for Law Enforcement

Is there a psychological war on cops?

On July 8, we wrote, “Dallas Police Murders and What it Means for Law Enforcement.” Ten days later, we are writing about three police murders in Baton Rouge.

In Dallas, five police officers were murdered, 6 hurt by a shooter motivated by the recent killings by police of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castilein in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and elsewhere.

In Baton Rouge, we have three police officers murdered and three hospitalized. One assailant was shot and killed. He was the only offender.

Crime in America will continue to run articles on this site regarding the murders of the Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers as well as reports on the police involved shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and elsewhere.

But there is a growing fatigue. There seem to be endless examples of attacks on cops. In Baton Rouge earlier this week, a break-in at a pawnshop was designed to acquire weapons to be used to attack police officers there. Presenting recent examples from other cities would take several thousand additional words. Add police murders to the toll of terrorism here and in Europe, one begins to get numb.

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Early observations.

When we ran a series of articles related to the Dallas police homicides (Including “Don’t be A Cop?”) there were over 100 comments on a variety of forums (mostly on Facebook and LinkedIn) indicating dismay but firm resolve to continue the process of policing. As one commentator said, “If not us, than who?”

Our Sunday morning monitoring of police related sites on Facebook and elsewhere, however, indicates that frustration may be taking over, selected quotes below, (I used mostly abbreviated quotes):

“Enough is enough”

“We said it—DALLAS is coming to your cities”

“Please don’t hesitate if you feel a threat!”

“PRAYERS PLEASE. Lord, help us”

“To all LEOs arround the world: Stand up, keep your head up and hold that fucking line. I know it’s a tough year for the law enforcement so far. 99% of all cops wanna do the right thing, and you don’t deserve to be judged, spit on, shot at or killed just because of few bad apples. We see you and support you.”

“I have become disgusted with what is happening in the world today concerning law enforcement, and I now feel the need to speak out. Specifically, I am sick of the constant drone of progressive and activist voices blaming police officers for the ills of society and constantly complaining about them as individuals, about their training, and about those who train them. I have had my fill of the narrative that is built upon false premises and untrue allegations.”

To be fair, the great majority of the observations were payers for the officers and their families. “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “Lord, help us” were common.

Political quotes were ignored.

Police Officers Killed or Injured (the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund)

A total of 1,439 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty during the past 10 years, an average of one death every 61hours or 144 per year.

There were 123 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in 2015.

There have been 15,725 assaults against law enforcement officers in 2014, resulting in 13,824 injuries.

The 1920s were the deadliest decade in law enforcement history, when a total of 2,437 officers died, or an average of almost 243 each year. The deadliest year in law enforcement history was 1930, when 304 officers were killed. That figure dropped dramatically in the 1990s, to an average of 162 per year.


Is There a War on Cops?

From the numbers above, no. At the moment, cops have never been safer. Line of duty deaths in recent years remain at lower or average numbers.

But from a psychological point of view, probably.

Are we willing to paint all police officers with a broad brush? It seems that we are. Citing recent statements from people in the entertainment industry condemning cops would take another 1,000 words.

Gallup reported in 2015 that public perceptions of police officers had reached its lowest point in 22 years.

We seem to be willing to condem all for the actions of a few.

So What Does This all Mean?

Anyone who follows criminal justice news on a daily basis knows that there are dozens of newspaper articles focusing on the problem of recruiting and keeping police officers.

As one commentator stated after the indictment of six police officers in Baltimore after riots pertaining to the Freddie Gray case, “Every wife and girlfriend, every husband and boyfriend is telling their loved one’s to get out of the Baltimore City Police Department, and to get out now.”

Similar conversations are happening in other cities.

We note that Baltimore now has the largest growth in homicides of the cities measured by recent US Department of Justice funded data. Rising rates of homicides and violence are happening in cities throughout the country.”

Commenters (including the head of the FBI) feel that police officers are reluctant to aggressively patrol, which is leading to a surge in homicides and violent crime in many (not all) cities throughout the country.

If we can’t hire or retain cops, or if the officers are reluctant to aggressively patrol as they contemplate leaving for “supportive” jurisdictions or new careers, things will go from bad to worse. Violent crime will increase. Our cities will deteriorate.

So What Do We Do?

There are three major steps:

We get rid of the bad cops we all acknowledge are a major part of the problem. The code of silence is no longer affordable. There is simply too much at stake.

We pick, train and pay police officers well. If we want them to take greater risks and make the right decisions under the most stressful of circumstances, we need to pay to get what we want. You want them to make the correct surgical decisions 99 percent of the time?  You want them to take greater risks to keep the peace? Then get ready to open your wallets.

We need written contracts with communities “that want them” as to what they want cops to do, and how they want them to do it.

It’s time for communities to decide what they want “while” understanding that their desires may have real consequences for their safety. Per my criminological training, communities are responsible for their own safety through informal social control. Cops play an important but secondary role.

It’s time to put it in writing, and for cops to adhere to those principals. Anything less is dysfunctional, bordering on cowardice.

We don’t need a national commission, we don’t need additional soul searching, we need to make communities partners and let them take the lead as to crime control. Offer cops the best possible pay and training. Get rid of the bad cops.

We need to temper our criticisms of law enforcement. The vast majority of cops do their jobs because they feel they are protecting their communities. Take that away, and cops stop being cops.

See for articles addressing all that we propose above.

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