A Crying Shame: Politics Poisoning Police Reform Efforts

President Joe Biden will hold an event at the White House hosting the family of George Floyd. Will they host the families of the officers killed in the line of duty last year? I'm guessing that's a "hard no."

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President Joe Biden will hold an event at the White House hosting the family of George Floyd—whose in-custody death triggered a nationwide discussion on police reform—to mark the one-year anniversary of that tragic and controversial incident.

Floyd's death—for which former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter—sparked violent protests and riots that left whole swaths of cities across America burned to the ground. In Minneapolis alone, the cost of the damage caused by rioters, looters, and arsonists is between $1 billion and $2 billion.

The White House event is to be held even as Biden's deadline for police reform legislation to be delivered to his desk comes and goes without meaningful action.

In his first joint address to Congress back in April, Biden said there was urgency to passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 by the anniversary of Floyd's death on May 25.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on a mostly party-line vote of 220–212 back in March—the legislation stagnated in the Senate despite ongoing talks and counterproposals.

The principal issue standing in the way of the nationwide police reform legislation—in its current form, anyway—is the matter of qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.

Specifically, one side of the political spectrum wants to allow families of individuals who have been the subject of police use of force to sue individual officers for damages, while those on the other side of the aisle seek to protect officers from such litigation.

State Legislation

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 states have taken under consideration a total of 358 pieces of legislation regarding police use of force—addressing matters such as chokeholds, shooting at moving vehicles, release of UOF records, duty by other officers to intervene in a police use of force, and, of course, qualified immunity—since the beginning of 2021.

That's an average of nearly 2.5 bills being introduced every single day so far in this calendar year.

Considering the fact that most lawmakers at the state and federal level "work" just a couple days a week—spending much of their time fundraising for their next election campaign—that ratio of bills to days skyrockets.

Most recently, New York Attorney General Letitia James introduced a bill late last week that would tighten the rules governing police use of force.

The proposed legislation in the Empire State would establish a "last resort" standard, changing the use-of-force law "from one of simple necessity to one of absolute last resort, mandating that police officers only use force after all other alternatives have been exhausted."

New York's proposed Police Accountability Act (S.6615) of 2021 would require officers to "exhaust other options, such as de-escalation, verbal warnings, or lower level uses of force, before using force," according to the press release.

New York Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch blasted the proposal, saying in a written statement, "This sweeping proposal would make it impossible for police officers to determine whether or not we are permitted to use force in a given situation."

Lynch added, "The only reasonable solution will be to avoid confrontations where force might become necessary. Meanwhile, violent criminals certainly aren't hesitating to use force against police officers or our communities."

Lynch said that the proposed law would mean that "more cops and more regular New Yorkers are going to get hurt" and he is completely correct—when a subject presents a threat of death or great bodily harm to an officer or another person in the area, use of force—including deadly force—is justifiable. 

Furthermore, such a law would likely cause a further decline in the number of young people even considering a career in law enforcement. It would also probably exacerbate the exodus of cops from anti-police jurisdictions to agencies more supportive of law enforcement, as well as the departure of officers from the profession altogether.

Consider the fact that young people who might have entered the workforce as police recruits are a staying away from the profession in droves because they might be reprimanded, fired, or even arrested for doing their jobs.

Consider further the fact that more than 200 officers have left the Minneapolis Police Department—either by early retirement or lateral transfer to other agencies—since Floyd's death.

Handcuffing the Police

Meanwhile, protesters, politicians and the press solidly entrenched in the anti-cop camp howl at the top of their lungs for "defunding the police" which would effectively halt the type of policing aimed at keeping American citizens safe from violent criminals.

They cry out against "police militarization" but demand that law enforcement respond to active killers in schools, corporate workplaces, and public gatherings where armored vehicles and long guns acquired in the 1033 program enable police to intervene, save innocent lives, and neutralize the threat.

They want the police to protect their cars and homes from being burglarized but call for "prison reform" that allows the early release of criminals onto the streets, free to commit more crimes that often land the perpetrators back in the criminal justice system.

They seemingly fail to comprehend—or refuse to admit their understanding—the fact that the people most often victimized by criminal activity are the very people they purport to protect.

With proactive policing such as directed patrol, gang task forces, fugitive task forces, traffic stops, and other practical measures aimed at lowering crime being severely curtailed or discontinued altogether, the only foreseeable outcome is an America mixture of the movies "Mad Max" and "The Purge"—a combination calamity and chaos.

Final Words

So, President Biden will hold an event to host the Floyd family at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

According to reports, the gathering will be "small and private"—if you count the presence of the official White House photographer and a gaggle of reporters in the press corps "small and private."

Rahm Emanuel—who was the 55th mayor of Chicago and briefly served as President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff—once famously said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before."

That philosophy of never wanting a crisis to go to waste couldn't be cast in clearer relief than today's political climate surrounding policing.

And that's a crying shame.

I leave you with one question...

Does the Biden-Harris administration plan to host the families of the 45 police officers to have been fatally shot in the line of duty last year? What about the families of the 13 who were murdered in a vehicular assault?

I'm guessing that's a "hard no."

And that's a crying shame.

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