In the War on Cops, the Lawless Have Won

The war on cops continues apace. Yes, I know that for some of you, the mere mention of the term sends you scampering for the latest refutation of the notion that such a war exists. Writing at the Washington Post, Radley Balko seems particularly vexed to see the term employed. Citing data from Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute, Balko correctly pointed out last December that 2015 was the second-safest year ever for American police officers, with 0.1112 gun-related deaths per 1 million in population. The rate was about six times higher in the 1970s and 14-17 times higher during the days of Prohibition.

Fine. The statistics are what they are. But while 2015’s numbers would hardly seem indicative of a war on the police, this year is shaping up much differently. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, shooting deaths of police officers are up 78 percent (PDF) this year when compared to the same point in 2015. The most recent officer to fall was Jonathan DeGuzman of the San Diego Police Department, who was shot and killed last Thursday night. His partner, Officer Irwin Wade, was wounded but survived.

Even with such a startling jump in violence against the police this year, things are still much better than they were in the 1970s and far, far better than they were in the 1930s. But there is more to this war on cops than these raw numbers. In her latest book, The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, Heather Mac Donald makes a compelling case that this war is real and that it comes with real casualties. Since the book’s June publication, evidence of Mac Donald’s thesis continues to accrue, nowhere more horrifically than in Chicago, where 65 people were murdered in July, bringing this year’s total to 381. The number of shooting victims in the city stood at 2,394 as of July 31. On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune reported on the two people killed and 21 wounded on Saturday alone.

If you’re curious about how this state of affairs came to be in Chicago, I recommend keeping up with the Second City Cop blog, which chronicles the city’s peculiar politics and how they affect its police department. On Saturday, SCC responded to the action taken against three officers involved in the fatal shooting of Paul O’Neal, 18, who police allege was driving a stolen Jaguar when he sideswiped a squad car and collided with a parked car while trying to escape. Three officers have been relieved of their police powers, sending a clear message to Chicago’s rank-and-file cops. Like that in many police departments, Chicago P.D.’s shooting policy prohibits firing at a moving car if the car is the only “weapon” being used by the suspect.