Our "crisis of confidence" isn't with the police, but with our communities

Last night I was reading a piece at Yahoo News from Jason Sickles which paints a dire picture of American society, describing a nation where the citizens are increasingly losing faith in law enforcement. The title is, From Ferguson to Minneapolis: Crisis of confidence plagues police in wake of deadly officer-involved shootings. This dark and foreboding analysis chooses to focus on a few groups who would rather cast stones at the police than stave off the real threats which are laying waste to communities around the nation. The author uses the recent police shooting of Jamar Clark in Minnesota as the lynch pin for the argument.

One of the most critical issues facing law enforcement is playing out now in Minneapolis — what, when and how much information to make public in the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting…

“We have been saying for a significant amount of time that Minneapolis is one bullet away from Ferguson,” Jason Sole, chair of the Minneapolis NAACP’s criminal justice committee, told a reporter.

“That bullet was fired last [Sunday]. We want justice immediately.”

A mere mention of “Ferguson” is enough to make any police chief flinch. The unrest outside St. Louis following the police killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was a “defining moment for the entire policing profession,” according to a recent paper by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

The shooting of Jamar Clark is a complicated one indeed and questions have been raised over video of the incident which purportedly exists but has yet to be released to the public. It’s a worthwhile question to raise, though an easy answer isn’t as available as some of the protesters might imagine. The public certainly has a right to the truth, but the timing of such a release can be a deciding factor in the prosecution of either the suspect or a cop out of control. Either case might ride on the contents, but we’ll know the answer to that question sooner or later.

What’s more disturbing is the general media acceptance of this running theme that the police are somehow the root of the problem and, oh so urgently framed, what we should do about it. But even if the police did take inappropriate action in this latest incident, it would be nice for all of the media mavens repeating these tropes to remember that it’s still one incident. It’s one person down amid a growing sea of bodies, with police weaponry being involved in only the tiniest fraction of them.

Consider for a moment that on the same weekend that Sickles was writing about this sad situation, other stories were breaking in the news elsewhere. Out in Los Angeles there’s a far bigger and more entrenched threat growing. That massive city had, for years, made some great progress since the days of the early nineties when more than a thousand murders could be recorded annually during the height of the crack epidemic. By 2010 they had tamed that number down to 200 or less, but as with too many other urban centers, the death toll is rising once again.

After an especially violent weekend in late September, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck expressed his frustration about the bloodshed, particularly among gangs. “This is not Dodge City,” Beck said, referring to 19 shootings in one weekend, 13 of which were gang-related…

Los Angeles is among a number of major cities across the U.S. seeing rises in violent crime this year, including Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Cleveland and Houston. Other California cities also have seen increases, including Sacramento, Oakland and Long Beach.

Though the numbers are up, those cities are far safer than they were in the early 1990s during the crack cocaine epidemic. In Los Angeles, for example, murders peaked in 1992 at 1,092 people killed.

So far this year, there have been 251 homicides, compared to 225 during the same time period last year.

The linked story is more hopeful than you might think. It focuses on the shooting of Eduardo Rebolledo, a working class guy who was getting into his truck after work when he was shot in the head because a gang fight had broken out near his job site. Since that time, neighbors have taken to the streets in protest… not of the police, but of the out of control gang violence that is claiming so many lives.

Also this weekend we saw another instance of Black Lives Apparently Not Mattering Very Much in New Orleans.

A manhunt was underway across New Orleans on Monday after 16 people were shot during a gunfight at an impromptu music video recording at in a city park, authorities said.

The victims were all in stable condition.

The shooting broke out late Sunday at Bunny Friend Park in the Upper Ninth Ward where about 500 people were gathered for the video shoot, officials said.

“At the end of the day it’s really hard to police against a bunch of guys who decide to pull out guns and settle disputes with 300 people between them,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a news conference.

By any standard which the Social Justice Warriors might care to apply, this qualifies as a mass shooting. The police were not the ones wielding the guns, but rather scrambling to find the guys who were pulling the triggers. And who were the victims? A picture is worth a thousand words. (Full gallery of photos of the scene via the Times Picayune from Michael DeMocker located here)

NOLAshooting

People are critically wounded or dying in massive numbers and it’s perhaps one in one thousand of these cases where the gun of a police officer is involved. Yes, there is a crisis of confidence. We’ve lost confidence in our own communities to push back against a growing wave of violence. And yes, Black Lives Matter. The lives of those people in the park matter. The lives of all the people dying around Chicago matter. They’re just as dead and they’re not being killed by cops. The police can’t stop or prevent all of this by themselves because they are grossly outnumbered and they need the support of the community to make any progress. Before we worry about fixing the police, perhaps we could see more marches and community activism or citizen watches such as the ones in Los Angeles where residents reject the real criminals and killers who are taking the vast, vast majority of black lives, white lives and, well… human lives of all stripes.

Get something like that going and maybe our confidence will return. And I mean the confidence of all of us, not just a group of vocal activists who would rather attack law enforcement than the actual problem.