For most cops and their supporters, the rising homicide rate over the past year—surging in Baltimore and St. Louis, creeping up in New York and elsewhere—is the inevitable result of demoralized police departments. The price of rage can be calculated in the number of cops who have been targeted and shot—most notoriously, NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last December and, just last week, Deputy Darren Goforth in Texas.
The price of fear and distrust is harder to gauge. After nearly a year of relentless coverage of stories portraying police as irredeemably brutal and racist—whether the facts surrounding the deaths remain troublingly obscure, as with Freddie Gray in Baltimore, or appear plainly criminal, as with Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C.—who knows how many people in danger now hesitate before calling the police, or don’t call at all? Who knows how many kids doing something stupid now think of resisting cops not just as an option but as a moral obligation?
And who knows how many qualified black kids with ambitions to serve their communities now reject the possibility of doing so in a police uniform? In May, Ismael Ozanne, the biracial district attorney of Madison, Wis., announced that charges would not be brought against the white officer who shot Tony Robinson, a biracial 19-year-old. Even as he acknowledged the urgency of issues of racial disparity, he lamented that black high-school students who had been interested in law enforcement were now rejecting it, “when that is precisely where their view and experiences are needed.”