Dear America: Boy, what a year it has been. Pandemic, economic crisis, quarantines, murder hornets, and now social unrest. I wish I could say it is going to be alright, and we will be okay, but to be perfectly honest I have never seen it so bad, and I want to share some thoughts with you about that.
I keep hearing that we need to have a conversation about today’s hot issues, but every time I try to engage in an actual discussion I am told to shut up and listen because of my race, profession, or argument. In a society that considers racists and racism to be vile, bearing false witness against me by accusing me of these very traits stings deeply. Further, my life’s profession and love, law enforcement, has done everything asked of it in my lifetime, and yet, today, anyone who dares say something positive or debate the current narrative that policing is somehow systemically racist and vile is “canceled” or ostracized.
I guess the real problem is our leaders; politicians and elites have passed the buck on most social problems and require the police to handle them. Drug abuse? Pass some laws and have the police handle it. Mental illness? Empty the sanitoriums and asylums, put the people on the streets, and let the cops handle it. Gangs? Urban violence? Poverty? Get some cops in there and throw money at the problem without solving the core issue of education and opportunity.
Police have responded with programs like Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (DARE) and Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT), and spent millions of labor hours and dollars, desperately trying to solve a problem that the vast majority of experts said could only be solved through good education and job opportunities.
In December 1994, Joe Brann was appointed by President Clinton to run his high priority Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (C.O.P.S.), and when I interviewed him in Ft. Worth in 1995 at a police sponsored pool hall designed to keep kids off the street, he was determined to build bridges between all communities and the police. That policy still dominates law enforcement today. If you were to give report cards to all the social agencies focused on solving our social issues, law enforcement’s grades would reveal it has done everything asked of it except solve all the societal problems that we cannot change.
Let’s take poverty and its related social problems of crime, gangs, and drug abuse, for instance. Our high schools have gone from leading the world in graduation rates to being 17th, at a time when statistics show that a high school diploma is an essential step to achieving financial security in life. In math our kids rank 35th in the world at a time where the workforce demands more and more technically proficient folks. We are preparing our kids for…what?
To try to stop drugs, we passed tougher and tougher laws, which filled our prisons with violators, creating a huge degree of social anger. And while this resulted in remarkably low crime rates in our country, it accomplished very little regarding solving the drug problem.
Make no mistake, we are a highly diverse nation, both racially and culturally, where most people have been able to live their lives without fear. Yes, urban crime is still terrible and needs to be addressed. But activists have embraced theories of justice that seek “fairness” instead of true justice, and victims find themselves disregarded by a system that seems to mock them. This only exacerbates the problem.
Gun crime? Laws that go unenforced in the name of “fairness” do nothing but create contempt for the law. My wife, the Sarge, worked in a Chicago suburb and can attest to the myriad times a felon in possession of a firearm was arrested and allowed to walk with a simple slap on the wrist.
On the other hand, law enforcement officers are undergoing greater and greater scrutiny. Pseudo-experts misrepresent use-of-force issues, and facts appear to no longer matter as my beloved country seems to be having a hissy fit. Laws and regulations reflexively passed without debate, or without anyone asking about unintended consequences, are appearing everywhere, leading to eliminated legal protections and misguided prosecutions.
Social movements are now debasing and denigrating the remarkably hard-working profession that has brought you extraordinarily safe streets. All that these caring public servants have ever asked for is your gratitude and respect. Take that away and I can no longer encourage these wonderful people to maintain their faith in you, and to risk every day the possibility of adding their names to the 21,000 “line of duty” deaths on the Police Memorial Wall.
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.