Editor’s note: This commentary is by Maurice Richards, who has been chief of the Martinsburg Police Department in West Virginia since 2015 after serving 24 years as an officer and lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department.
Recent looting, arson and targeted violence against police wasn’t about police reform, and the assassination of police officers wasn’t about mourning or respecting George Floyd — so what’s really going on?
A quick look at two radical movements behind George Floyd protests — Antifa and Black Lives Matter — provides some insight. It is difficult to pin down an official “party line” with these amorphous groups, but there are similarities: The Black Lives Matter organization has called for national defunding of police and dismantling the nuclear family. The Movement for Black Lives calls for a Marxist-inspired agenda, which includes defunding police, eliminating prisons, ending all immigration enforcement, and paying slavery reparations. Antifa is even less centralized, but its adherents’ penchant for destruction, violence, riots and vandalism inspired by the supposed “racialized capitalism” of the United States is well documented.
The common thread uniting these movements is the belief that the United States as a country is illegitimate, inherently racist, and irredeemable. They view the police as racist defenders of this evil order.
This destructive pathology is a theme being echoed by many media and left-wing elites. In doing so, they fan the dangerous flames of racial hatred and violence while they downplay theft, arson, mob violence, the killing of innocent citizens, and the assassinations of police officers. The damage and vandalism that rioters have inflicted reveal their true motives and hatred for America. In Boston, a monument was desecrated honoring the 54th Massachusetts, the first black volunteer regiment in the Union Army that fought in the Civil War, which, of course, ended slavery. In Washington, D.C., the Lincoln Memorial and the World War II Monument — dedicated to Americans who died fighting the real fascists of Germany, Italy, and Japan — were defaced.
During the recent anarchy, a disturbing trend became clear — much mainstream media supported the defund-the-police agenda while rationalizing mob violence. They appear to be in total collusion with the far-Left. As historian and columnist Victor Davis Hanson observed, “There’s a narrative where the Media has joined Antifa and Black Lives Matter in forging the agenda that the United States was at the beginning, in continuation, in its present, and in the future a racist country that can only be remedied by violence that draws attention to the need for radical redistribution and reparations.”
This is exactly what we are seeing. The media is pivoting from the fake charge that the police are systemically racist to the position that all white people are racist. Making an assertion designed to turn black and white Americans against each other, CNN anchor Don Lemon asked “if you grew up in America, you came out of American soil. Considering the history of this country, how can you not be racist? How can you not have racial blindspots, how can you not see that the factory reset in America is whiteness?” This is pure projection, because making a value judgment on people based upon their skin color is part of the very essence of racism. It is the antithesis of the example, beliefs and teachings of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dreamed of a future where Americans would judge one another “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
The myth that black people are being hunted by the police is doubly tragic because it deflects attention away from the real issue of deadly violence facing black citizens. For people who believe black lives really matter, two questions should be asked:
First, who is really killing most black people? Second, who are the people really saving black lives?
It is a fact that black Americans, particularly young black men, are being killed in American cities at an alarming rate—but not because of the police. In 2018, police shot and killed 990 people, 228 of whom were black. The same year, there were 14,123 homicides in the United States. The number of black victims was 7,407, of which 93% were killed by other black people.
This is the real epidemic confronting the black community, but there is no outrage from the mob or the media. For police-hating professional activists, “black lives matter” only when they are killed by the police. This hypocrisy was on full display during the recent murder of a black teenager in Seattle’s “Autonomous Zone” and the continued carnage in Chicago’s black community. There was no outrage or protest in response to the cold-blooded shooting of Lorenzo Anderson in Seattle and zero concern that a violent mob of CHOP comrades prevented police and medics from reaching and saving Lorenzo as he bled to death.
The mob and media silence was equally deafening after the Father’s Day weekend bloodbath in Chicago’s black community. More than 100 were shot with 15 dead, including four black children—one of them three-year-old Mekhi James. The deadly Chicago weekend was not an outlier. The slaughter has continued over the last two weeks, with more than 150 people shot and 40 dead, almost all in the black community. Among those killed since late June have been 10 children under the age of 18 including seven-year-old Natalia Wallace and one-year-old Sincere Gaston. The leftwing media hasn’t dwelt on their murders and Black Lives Matter hasn’t protested either.
Why are so many black people being killed in American cities? It is an unfortunate, but seldom acknowledged fact that black Americans as a group, particularly young black men, statistically commit violent crime at a rate much higher than their representation in the population. This is especially true in large urban areas. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, despite the black population of the United States being less than 13%, black offenders committed 52% of all homicides between 1980 and 2008. This higher crime rate also results in more contact with the police. In his book, Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, Kentucky State University professor Wilfred Reilly observes that “a Black crime rate which is 2.5 times the white crime rate and rises to 10 times the white crime rate in many major cities obviously explains most or all Black-white disparities in terms of unpleasant encounters with the police.”
So, the answer to the first question is that most black people killed in the United States are being killed by other black people — particularly by young black men. But as to our second question, who is saving the lives of Black people and preventing these outrageous numbers from being even higher? That answer is simple—it is the police.
Violent crime offender rates in Chicago are similar to most big cities, showing significant overrepresentation of both black victims and perpetrators of violent crime relative to total population. The Chicago Police Department’s Murder Analysis Report of 2011 showed that black Americans accounted for 75% of homicide victims and 71% of homicide offenders while comprising only 29% of the city’s population. Most of the city’s violent crime and homicides of black Chicagoans occur in predominately black neighborhoods.
However, during the period from 1991 to 2011, murders were reduced by 54% from a high of 943 in 1992 to 433 in 2011. Chicago Police Department manpower and resources were targeted at areas of gun violence; officers arrested shooters who were prosecuted, convicted and sent to prison; thousands of illegal firearms were taken off the streets each year; and police were strategic and proactive, maintaining high visibility to further deter violent crime. These tactics and results were applied and replicated in other big cities.
In New York City, the reduction in murder and other violent crime was even more dramatic. This unprecedented violent crime reduction in Chicago, New York, and other big cities across the country likely resulted in tens of thousands of black lives saved by the police.
My 24-year career in the Chicago Police Department spanned this period. I served as a patrolman, gang team officer, sergeant and tactical unit lieutenant in high-crime neighborhoods. How did ordinary, law-abiding black residents view the police? Two examples are instructive.
In the South Chicago District, I organized and led CPD’s first districtwide bike patrol unit. On our first day of operations, we wanted to make an impression, so I led our eight-member team to ride as a group through the most violent, gang-infested beat in the district. Honestly, we didn’t know what to expect. But as soon as we turned the corner at 80th and Marquette and pedaled down that street, an amazing thing happened. About six or seven black women — mothers and grandmothers — came out on their porches and front steps to cheer, applaud and bless us!
As a community policing sergeant and lieutenant, I chaired almost 100 community and problem-solving beat meetings in mostly all-black communities. I worked closely with residents—regular people who had to live every day with the intimidation, gang violence, disorder, and fear that neighborhood crime generates. Contrary to the elites and professional anti-police activists who advocate distrust and hatred of the police, the black residents who actually live in these neighborhoods — wanting nothing more than safety and a decent quality of life for their families — had only two complaints about the police: first, that there weren’t enough of us (they wanted more), and second, they wanted to know why couldn’t CPD just knock the thugs and hoodlums off the corners.
Tragically, violence, shootings and homicides are now back on the rise. The media’s anti-police propaganda war, combined with a lack of support from some department administrations and city governments, have resulted in what Heather MacDonald identified as the “Ferguson Effect.” Because of the hatred that has been deliberately engineered, police officers across the country are understandably backing away from the type of proactive policing that is required to effectively deter violent crime. The result is that violent crime is back up, and so are the numbers of black homicide victims.
If anyone in America was wondering what a country without the police would look like, they don’t need to imagine it anymore. Riots, looting, arson, mob violence and murder—this is what America looks like when the police are not allowed to enforce the law and maintain order. Without the police, the inevitable result is anarchy and the rule of thugs, gangs and the mob. We saw it happen before our eyes in Seattle, where another mayor and police chief not only surrendered one of their police precinct stations to the mob, but also ceded an entire portion of the city where the police were prohibited from patrolling.
In many cities, lawless mobs have defaced churches, have trashed Christian icons and have torn down historic statues and monuments with no fear of police action and arrest — just as the mob in Portland, Oregon, pulled down and set fire to a statue of George Washington with no police in sight.
This is just commonsense, policing 101. Crime and disorder doesn’t stop itself—the police have to step in and enforce the law, and this isn’t happening in our cities. One of the few enforcement actions taken to put a stop to this anarchist free-for-all was President Donald Trump’s executive order to protect our nation’s monuments.
The campaign to defund the police is gathering momentum and moving quickly in various forms, but all with the same end goal to sabotage, cripple or eliminate the police. Defunding is already underway in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland, and the total dismantling of a police department is progressing in Minneapolis.
But while these are serious threats, nothing can kill an organization quicker than the destruction of its members’ morale. This is proceeding even more rapidly, with little or no push back from police or political leaders. In fact, just the opposite has been happening.
While every cop in America is being called a racist murderer, rioters who were arrested for attacking the police, looting and other crimes have been let off scott-free. In New York City, district attorneys refused to prosecute hundreds of lawbreakers; in St. Louis 36 rioters and looters were set free without facing charges; and in Fort Worth, the police chief dropped criminal charges against 50 rioters as a gesture of “reconciliation.” Criminal destruction without punishment, attacking police without consequences and advocating physical resistance to lawful arrest all claim moral justification through the lie that the police are systemically racist. This has already resulted in new violence and will lead to more.
This is a fight for survival, not only for the police, but for our country and civilization, as well. We are rapidly approaching a tipping point. Unless police leaders and decent Americans stand up, speak out and fight back against this all-out assault upon the values and foundations of American society, the far-Left won’t need to defund the police to accomplish its destruction, because policing as an institution will simply implode and slowly die. Good cops will quit or retire early; remaining officers will go through the motions, perform minimal job functions while completely backing off from any proactive police action; and men and women of good character who wanted to serve and make a difference in their communities will not even apply for the job.
America’s tradition and principles, the rule of law, legitimacy of the police and the foundations of our democracy are being attacked from all sides. We are in a cultural civil war. America can be saved, but it will take police leaders and all Americans who believe in our country to stand up together to speak out — now. This must start with exposing the big lie that that police in the United States are systemically racist.