Last Friday as the five-day work week came and went, people across the United States were likely to be ducking out of the office—or more likely, ducking out of their online "Zoom" meetings—and headed for the cabin by the lake, the campgrounds by the creek, or some other place they gravitate to annually for the upcoming long Memorial Day weekend.
Some break out the grill from where it lay dormant all winter and prepare family recipes for friends and neighbors. Some solemnly recognize the service of those men and women who wore the uniform of this Nation's armed services and gave their all in that uniform—it's called Memorial Day for a reason.
Memorial Day is the unofficial "first day of summer" in the United States—and with the advent of summer police across America brace for an inevitable uptick in a variety of criminal activities.
Summers are notoriously higher in crime in most parts of the country, but 2020 was particularly unique, with a substantial rise in crimes over the previous year.
According to research conducted by the Council on Criminal Justice, among 20 cities surveyed in June, July and August of 2020—including places such as Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Nashville—there was an aggregate 53-percent surge in the murder-rate during that three-month span compared to the same period in 2019.
Home invasions, car burglaries, domestic incidents, felonious assaults, and other crimes all went up in various places across America.
Summer of Love
Some cynically called the summer months of 2020 the "Summer of Love" but it was anything but "lovely" for people—public safety professionals especially, but also the citizens they protect and serve—with a front row seat to the mayhem that unfolded in cities and towns across America.
Violent riots in the city streets were called by members of the mainstream press and the political elites "mostly peaceful" protests—ignoring the fact that bricks and bottles were mercilessly hurled at officers trying only to keep the peace and protect innocents.
Widespread looting and arson were tolerated as "normal" behavior—ignoring the fact that fire has been used as a tool of warfare since the days of Genghis Khan, and pillaging dates back to the first time a prehistoric tribe attacked their neigbors and took their stuff.
Much of this mayhem was the direct result of anger over the death of George Floyd while in custody of members of the Minneapolis Police Department. Some was the result of police pulling back from proactive patrols in neighborhoods overtaken by criminal gangs. A salient argument could be made that it was the nexus of those two things colliding upon each other in the same place at the same time.
No matter the cause, the effect was the fact that on top of a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis, the flood of illegal immigrants overwhelming the men and women attempting to secure the southern border, and an uncertain political future in the thick of a hotly contested election season, people across the United States were just plain scared.
Further, the people who suffered the most in the summer of 2020 were—generally speaking—those the mobs were claiming to "protect" from police violence. Children were shot in the crossfire of gunfights in the streets. "Mom-and-Pop" shops were robbed, looted, and set ablaze.
Whole sections of our cities looked more like a Middle East war zone than a Midwest American metropolis.
Entering Summer 2021
Let's begin with a completely informal, totally unscientific poll… Do you think that an entire summer will come and go without at least one controversial incident involving police use of force?
Yeah, probably not—there is undoubtedly going to be something that causes strife in the streets in the next few months, and it will be law enforcement placed squarely in harm's way to quell the unrest.
What is the probability that protesters, politicians, and the press will seize upon such an incident to advance their own agendas? What is the probability that cities like those mentioned above will again suffer the type of chaos we saw in 2020?
The probability in both cases is pretty high.
One last question… Do you think that the number—and severity—of attacks and assaults on police officers will rise or fall during the summer months?
It's saddening and maddening to conclude that police will increasingly come under fire—physically and mentally—as criminals are emboldened by movements to "defund the police" persist. Everything from resisting arrest to planned ambush attacks are certain to happen.
There will be the usual increase in domestic calls, as family disputes—often fueled by overconsumption of alcohol and/or illegal narcotics—devolve into violence. You—the cops—will be called.
Kids will be struck by vehicles on neighborhood streets because they're out an about on their bikes and not glued to their computers doing the "distance learning" thing. You—the cops—will be called.
On Independence Day people of questionable intelligence have their own fireworks shows from their driveway, igniting small fires, irritating the neighbors, and losing fingers. You—the cops—will be called.
Drunk driving. Missing persons. Suspicious persons. Armed robbery. Gang warfare. Medical emergencies. Illegal camping. Noise disturbances. Drug deals. Drowning victims. Street races.
You—the cops—will be called.
In anticipation of the prospect of large-scale gatherings of people—either in peaceful protest or violent riots—police leaders should design strategic and tactical plans for appropriate response. Make sure that officers are regularly briefed on potential hot-spots where such events might take place. Make sure the lines of communication with community leaders—from the preachers to the press—are open and operable.
While command staff addresses those matters, individual officers should do their level best to prepare for the coming months.
Officers on regular patrol should remain in condition yellow and be vigilant against sudden attacks.
Officers must resist the temptation to leave the ballistic armor in the locker due to the expected heat.
Officers must remain hydrated, keeping a few back-up water bottles in the trunk of the squad car.
Officers must always be ready—in Latin, Semper Paratus—physically, mentality, and emotionally.
The annual summertime surge in calls for service will inevitably lead to an associated proliferation in police-citizen contacts, thus giving rise by an indeterminate number to the "odds" of something going sideways.
I'm not a gambling person, but if I was, I'd push all my chips to the center of the table and bet that this summer is going to deliver to law enforcement a host of challenges.
I'd almost surely win that bet.
I'd then double down and bet that those officers will meet those challenges with unmatched aplomb and professionalism.
Be well. Stay safe.