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Columns : In My Sights

Ornery Little Facts

Media exaggeration has eroded the public's trust in police.

August 08, 2018  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Well, it does not look like the “war on cops” is going away anytime soon. As I write this, another protest is taking place in Chicago over the shooting of someone who was originally reported by the media and “witnesses” as “an unarmed black man.” When an incident like this occurs, the media exaggerates it, politicians demagogue it, and the average American is left misinformed.

It's the “Disuniting of America,” as Arthur Schlesinger called it in his excellent book by that name. The glue of a free society is “trust,” and the point of the spear in that regard is the law enforcement community, which creates the atmosphere of safety and order so essential to the maintenance of trust. Undermine law enforcement, and our societal fabric is at risk of unraveling.

One of the toughest issues in this fight is that, while the American people at large deeply trust and count on their local constabulary to enforce the law and keep them safe, the elites such as academics, politicians, and the media seem to live in a sort of “utopian haze” where the police are the problem and criminality is simply the residue of social distrust and the effect of “the man” putting people down. I was taught this in a college criminology class back in 1973, by a particularly left-leaning professor. When I offered to take him on a ride-along with me in 1975 to see the reality on the streets, he politely refused. This illuminated for me the point that facts are not allowed to interfere with liberal dogma.

However, facts are stubborn little things, and they keep reminding us that most of the propaganda regarding modern law enforcement is either statistically false or misrepresented in such a way as to defame. In his fun little read, "Damned Lies and Statistics," Joel Best offers solid examples of how the media manipulate data. For instance, a journalist made the startling claim that gun deaths among children have doubled every year since 1950. That would mean 8 billion kids should have been killed by 1983. Wow!

The inflammatory claim that American law enforcement is gunning down unarmed black men is equally as specious, as Heather Mac Donald points out in her book "The War On Cops." Actual data and crime rates seriously erode the criticisms thrown about over the last eight years. And as hopeful as I was with a change of presidential administrations, we have still not seen a serious reduction in political, social, or media assaults on the reputation of our profession.

Rather than just sit and lament, some folks are taking a stand and speaking out, and others are taking steps to create positive vibes between the people and the police. For instance, the Indianapolis FOP is creating public service announcements explaining what to do when stopped or approached by law enforcement officers. “Comply first, complain later,” which sounds like common sense advice. Conversely, it seems the media is hyping a “resist the police” subtext that can only lead to bad things. Popular television shows have pushed the “driving while black” message to such a degree that social media platforms are filled with videos showing angry violators confronting then attacking officers on traffic stops. The media is more than willing to take the side of the combatant over the police, often showing only the last 30 seconds of a confrontation and leaving out the entire context.

Law enforcement leadership needs to step up and communicate the facts to the American public. Use that "bully pulpit" to show the media that physical force is ugly, that no single tool is universally effective, that each and every officer has a duty and a right to protect themselves successfully in every confrontation, and that nowhere in this country is it legal to resist a lawful arrest…period.

The dark forces that seek to divide us need to be exposed and countered by facts and explanations about how we do business. To that end, remember the “unarmed black man” in Chicago I mentioned at the beginning of this article? He was, in fact, armed and non-compliant. The time has come to stop the hostile lies of the elites by using the one thing we have kept too long in our holsters…the Truth.

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.


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