Still, the conservative movement as a whole has no answer to corrupt cops or police departments, though they’re among the most oppressive bureaucracies in the U.S. Prior to Baltimore, few voices on the right had even acknowledged the massive problem. Most commentary after the riots only highlights their blind spots. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger assigned blame for Monday’s unrest to Al Sharpton, the phrase “no justice, no peace,” and the unemployment rate. His column-length attempt to finger the causes of the riot makes no mention of Freddie Gray’s unexplained death or Baltimore’s long history of egregious policing. That hugely consequential local history is totally ignored.
The myopia sometimes manifests as a failure to apply “law-and-order” logic consistently. Jack Dunphy, a pseudonymous LAPD officer and longtime National Review contributor, wrote that “if you allow lawlessness to go unchallenged, you will very quickly have more of it. With the rioters thus emboldened, restoring order will now require a greater level of force than would have been necessary had the police been allowed to act decisively at the first sign of violence. As I write this no one has yet been killed in Baltimore, but I fear that will change soon enough.” Why doesn’t a policeman who believes that lawlessness begets more lawlessness have any record of urging reforms aimed at lawlessness by police officers? It isn’t as if he’s never seen misbehavior during his decades at a scandal-prone LAPD. Why isn’t he professionally disgusted by the abysmal record of Baltimore cops? And one can’t help but notice that when he says that “no one has yet been killed in Baltimore,” he’s using a timeline that arbitrarily begins after the killing of Freddie Gray.
National Review’s editor, Rich Lowry, is similarly selective in the time horizons he chooses. “Of course, law enforcement should always act responsibility,” he wrote, “but parts of Baltimore were burning yesterday because the police were overly restrained.” After watching residents of Ferguson, Missouri, riot even in the face of aggressive militarized battalions on its streets, I’m confused by the certainty some conservatives apparently feel that overly restrained police is what went wrong in Baltimore. But even if more assertive policing would’ve helped Monday, one need only look back a bit farther to see that if not for the insufficiently restrained policing that may have killed Freddie Gray and definitely brutalized scores of blacks in recent years, there very likely would not have been riots in Baltimore, just as there probably wouldn’t have been LA riots if not for the LAPD’s epidemic brutality.