There is a Thin Blue Line Between Helping and Hurting

The endless stream of other videos frequently shared on social media has made apparent that racially charged discussions concerning police use of force distract from the facts that America has a severe policing problem.

Legacy and local news outlets, and Black Lives Matter narratives, would paint a picture that there exists a coordinated effort by law enforcement agencies to attack and kill African Americans. The problem is, the actual data paints a slightly different picture. The more you examine the data, the more it becomes clear that we don’t simply have a race problem, we have a policing problem.

Multiple studies have shown that blacks are killed by police at 3 times the rate of whites. The Washington Post, as well as other organizations have been tracking police shootings and killings across the United States since 2015. The Washington Post database doesn’t track other instances of death at the hands police, like chokeholds, that have dominated headlines and been the focus of a lot of police reform in recent months. According to the Washington Post database, there were a total of 999 police shootings in 2019; 250 were attributed to black victims, 403 were white. It’s at this point, that so many of the Black Lives Matter activists would focus on the rate of killings in relation to population, which is a fair grievance. But instead of zooming in, we should really take a step back and ask ourselves some really important questions.

The first of which would be, “Are we okay with law enforcement killing an average of one thousand people a year?” American police kill exponentially more people per year than any other comparably developed nation in the world. The terrible truth is that it is not even close. Police in the U.K. killed just three people last year. Australian police haven’t killed more than 11 people per year since 1992. Germany, Japan, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom killed fewer people combined in the entirety of 2018 than police in the United States did in just December of that same year.

How did we get here?

For decades, conservatives have supported a “tough on crime” mentality that has led to policies and doctrines that have assisted in creating a police culture where lethal use of force is the default action. We’ve supported programs that allow for local police departments to obtain surplus military equipment that comes at a huge maintenance cost to taxpayers. As we’ve allowed and even supported the continued militarization of police departments across the country, we’ve seen the sustained cost in the streets of our neighborhoods.  The actions fly in the face of values conservatives claim to hold dear such as fiscal conservatism, limited government, and individual freedoms.

To be clear, I support the men and women in law enforcement across the country. But support for law enforcement does not negate accountability, in fact it’s quite the opposite. It is because we, as conservatives, hold law enforcement in such high regard that we should support policies that lead to responsible spending, protections of the property rights of law abiding civilians, ensure the safety of communities and the rights of individuals charged with crimes to face those charges in a court of law.

Where do we go from here?

We should carefully reexamine and curtail the Pentagon’s 1033 Program. There is no reason that a town with a population of less than 8,500 needs an MRAP parading down main street like in this town in West Virginia. It is in no way fiscally responsible for the taxpayers to bear the cost of maintaining such equipment when the local police department can carry out its duties without it.

We must work reform Qualified Immunity. Conservatives have particularly succumbed to the argument put forth by police unions that individual officers should be protected from consequences when they have clearly violated a citizen’s civil rights or used excessive force. Americans all understand that there is an inherent element of danger in the line of police work. However, with the relatively recent advancement in cell phone technology, the American public has been exposed to a wide range of incidents involving excessive use of force by police, often ending in very little repercussions for the offending officer, if any at all. Take the assault of a bipolar woman on the side of a California Freeway or the shooting of a mentally handicapped man in Chicago. Not only do instances like these tear away at the public trust in local law enforcement, they cost the taxpayer. Chicago paid $20 million in excessive use of force settlements in 2018 alone after they had to take out a bond to pay $225 million in settlements and judgements in 2017. Poor behavior and poor judgement of police directly affects the pocketbooks of law-abiding citizens.

This is not the time to point the finger at Democrats and liberals for their part in the passage of legislation like the 1994 crime bill that has garnered so much attention in recent months in response to the upcoming election. It is time for Conservatives to show leadership in this area. We cannot be afraid of police unions, and we should show in earnest our dedication to reforms that reflect the values that we hold dear.