A third off duty Chicago police officer has been killed since May. The murders of these three Chicago officers only highlight what some of us have called “The War on Cops,” and yet, once again the mayor and the media are whining about “gun violence” as if marauding gangs of guns are roaming the streets of Chicago. As we grieve the loss of one of our brothers, the public’s attention is distracted by utopian dreams of a happily-unarmed populace. In 2010, we still have criminal subcultures whose members’ social standing rises when they kill one of us! With a few exceptions, the media continues to be our enemy and not our ally in this war, and the politicians — with Machiavellian cynicism — use our deaths for their own political advantage.
Mayor Daley doesn’t seem to see the irony in the fact that Officer Michael Bailey — who was approached and killed while still in uniform — had just spent the night guarding the Mayor’s house as part of Ruler of Chicago’s security team. It is being called an “apparent robbery attempt” but smells more like an assassination and points to the level of chaos that rules the city. In fact, Chicago is a microcosm of social experiments gone wrong, from creating ghettos as described in Nicholas Lamann’s,The Promised Land to the nation’s most extensive handgun ban — recently overturned in the Supreme Court. Chicago has every social program ever thought up to reverse poverty, segregation, ignorance, and crime, and all these have deteriorated into political patronage jobs and a huge underclass that is filled with criminality, disease, drugs, welfare dependency, illegitimacy, anger…everything but hope.
The mayor’s cry following this third tragedy is to lament the loss a little and then go on to whine about guns. Ironically, it was University of Chicago Economist John Lott who showed that crime was inversely proportional to the number of guns in the community…the more guns, the less crime! Well, our fallen brothers had guns and were murdered just the same and the root problems of Chicago go a lot deeper and, I fear, hold a dark vision of the nation’s future as a whole if we ignore the true issues.
In the 1970s we were told the “Culture of Poverty” could be cured with a simple welfare program and a little “affirmative” effort. Criminologists explained crime was a byproduct of the friction created by Capitalism and the “have-nots” suffering from watching the “haves” live in lucrative luxury. A few non-Marxist leaning sociologists felt crime came from local and familial issues and the simple fact that ghettos and barrios produced fine and honorable citizens in relatively greater numbers than it produced criminals was de facto proof the problem lay in beliefs and values not in economic structure.
Regardless of the cause, the crime and social ills of the cities were soon found throughout our nation and the tip of the spear in the societal response to that plague was the law enforcement community. Reviled and mocked, misrepresented in the media, law enforcement has tried program after program to stem the tide of social ills. In the last 30 years, the professionalization of the criminal justice community has done little to stem drugs, poverty, and the other social problems we studied so intensely in the 70s. Punishing criminality finally put the criminal class behind bars for extended periods and the crime rate dropped throughout the nation. The problem is, we still have the root causes and social issues and it seems they are getting worse.
Ultimately, the politicians and talking heads end up wondering, “What are the police going to do about this?”
The truth is, the police will answer calls, investigate crimes, patrol the neighborhood, watch the businesses, and do their jobs! The people should ask when will the politicians honestly look at social issues and address them without pandering to this constituency or that.
The cause of murder or rape is not the possession of a handgun but a predisposition that is resident in an individual — doubtlessly present for many reasons. Humans don’t need to do much reflection to realize the darker side of our nature, and almost every social institution is designed to reign in our lower self. Since the species isn’t going to change anytime soon, we are assured of job security, and with that security the intense risk of being guardians of the weak, the innocent, the victims. But where does that predisposition come from to murder, rob, rape, loot, molest, steal or kill a cop? I don’t care. Catch and punish is the simple answer to dealing with those who wish to prey on others.
If we don’t stigmatize negative behaviors we will get more of them. Until society has the courage to face some real truths it cannot solve anything. Self esteem programs in school? Well, the highest self esteem measured is among male urban gang bangers…hmmm. Take guns away, fine, then the law of the jungle prevails and the largest, strongest, or most in number, will take what they wish. A petit hundred pound lady is the equal of Mike Tyson thanks to Mr. Colt, if she’s allowed to pack him along, but Mayor Daley prefers to demonize a weapon and not its bearer.
Chicago will not solve its social ills until society itself realizes that criminality is created most often by a short-term pessimistic view of the world — a “get mine now” mentality. Optimism is an antidote for criminality — believing you control your own life and destiny is essential. The term is “Locus of Control” and the criminal underclass class sees everyone else as in control, especially “The Man” and you, my brothers and sisters, are the living embodiment of that entity, making you a valid target for them all the time. Not just in a physical sense but also an emotional, blaming sense. Thus, the politicians, activists, media, and anyone playing to emotions of the hopeless will always seek to find fault with the police.
It is not an accident that law enforcement ends up with this or that program trying to raise other people’s kids or change the culture of a neighborhood, it is a deep emotional belief that the police have such power when they do not…you do not.
Such illusions always lead to anger and the rare — but highly publicized — misconduct by one of our own becomes a metaphor for all police activity everywhere. Hip Hop songs often chant the anger and hostility directed at law enforcement. It has been more than twenty years since NWA’s F___ the Policeand what stunned us in ‘88 seems pretty benign now, but the sense of hopeless and anger has not diminished.
Which brings us to today, a day when we are more socially-polarized than any other time since the 60s, and the social issues seem more aggravated than ever, and with a contentious election, massive unemployment, and unprecedented debt, it doesn’t seem that things will get better. We are seeing law enforcement layoffs in cities like Cleveland and Oakland, where the need for such peacekeepers would seem essential. Common sense would say other social programs would be reduced or eliminated since all they have created is a dependant and angry underclass, (a welfare state does NOT create a sense of gratitude among it’s recipient population) before the peacekeepers would be laid off!
The American law enforcement officer can only do what he or she has always done and that is our job the best we can! The motive of the criminal is really not a factor we care about; if you commit a crime we will catch you…period. The studies of survivors at sea find the ones who survive are not the ones calling out “help will be here in the morning!” but the real optimists with their heads down bailing out the raft. We are in a storm and we have to keep our heads down and keep bailing.
Law enforcement does not control the politicians, the upper or lower classes, the economy, or the budget. We control evil, we hunt it and to do that we have to stay focused. The root causes of crime and social unrest are not in our hands, although we will bear the brunt of the burden. “A War on Cops” or not, we will do our jobs and we will keep on bailing! Take care of yourself, your brothers and sisters, and your family. Do that first and go and be the best crime fighter you can, refresh your skills constantly, keep focused, and please, please vote.
About the Author:
As a police officer, Dave Smith has held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. Dave continues to develop new and innovative programs across the spectrum of police training needs designed to assist your agency and your personnel in meeting the challenges of policing in the new millennium. As a trainer, speaker, and consultant Dave brings with him unparalleled access to modern law enforcement trends.
Dave is now the owner of “The Winning Mind LLC,” the Director of Video Training for PoliceOne Video and author of the new book “In My Sights.” His experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to his signature class, “The Winning Mind.” Visit Dave’s website at www.jdbucksavage.com.