Which is why I think we should consider the possibility of a return to a style of policing in which officers do not, under ordinary circumstances, carry guns or wear black body armor. Bandying weapons around is not the best way to promote respect for the law. The law is meaningless if it is not grounded in justice, and omnidirectional threats that precipitate violence are not justice. Every American citizen should feel safe approaching police officers with questions and concerns, just as police officers should recognize that the vast majority of those whom they have sworn to serve and protect pose no threat either to the general peace or to their own safety.
I am not suggesting that there are no circumstances under which cops should carry firearms. But it strains credulity to think that virtually all of them need to do so most of the time. Patrolling a neighborhood or making a routine traffic stop is not the same thing as raiding the compound of a drug smuggler who has been accused of murder. Attacks on police are now less common than they have been in decades. We’re really not scary, officer, we promise.