What happens when the police say "enough is enough?"

As we’ve discussed here previously, while there are probably areas where standard law enforcement training and best practices would benefit from some reform efforts, what’s really rolling out across the country right now is something different. Whether it’s coming from protesters or rioters in the streets or (primarily Democratic) elected officials, we’re seeing a trend towards blaming the police for many of society’s ills. And don’t think for a moment that the rank and file police officers around the country haven’t noticed.

Over at the Free Beacon, the editors posed a chilling question this weekend that’s looking less and less hypothetical by the week. What happens when the cops have had enough? They start out reminding us of the details of (former) Police Officer Garrett Rolfe’s killing of Rayshard Brooks and the panicked response from the Democratic district attorney, who slapped Rolfe with a felony murder charge before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could even finish looking into the matter. This led to a case of the “blue flu” as Atlanta cops called out sick in protest of the process. But what happens if this spreads further around the country?

That hurts cops, like the Chicago officer who allowed herself to be beaten to the point of hospitalization rather than draw her weapon because, the police chief said, “she didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news.”

When doing your job can lead to a death sentence, when you can’t fight back against a brutal beating for fear of public recrimination, when prominent politicians want to punitively slash your funding—wouldn’t you walk too? Many may not be able to do so in the current economy, but expect to see the cumulative impact of this approach when it bounces back.

Continuing down the path Democratic politicians are choosing will, inevitably, be the undoing of America’s hard-won crime decline. Decades of research tell us so—just this month, two Harvard professors found that investigations of departments sparked by “viral” shootings suppressed police activity, leading to almost 900 added homicides and 34,000 felonies.

That’s a bloody fact. If it becomes a national reality, we will have only those who now demagogue on hatred of the police to blame.

The handling of the shooting of Rayshard Brooks is something I wrote about shortly after it happens and I was attempting to sound the alarm about the same questions the editors at the Free Beacon are raising. There are significant differences between what happened with Brooks and, for example, the killing of George Floyd. Or even worse, the Michael Slager shooting of Walter Scott in 2016. While a full investigation is certainly warranted, there were numerous facts that would likely prove this to be a case of potentially poor judgment on the officer’s part at most, as compared to a racist, deliberate attempt at assassinating someone.

And the idea that the prosecutor could bring home a conviction on felony murder with all of that video available seems preposterous. Rolfe was thrown out as a sacrifice to the mob in the hopes of suppressing further demonstrations and/or riots. Honestly, they will probably be lucky to even get a lower-grade manslaughter conviction, particularly when the jury sees that Brooks fired a taser at the police and are informed that Georgia considers it a deadly weapon. (Something I didn’t know when I first wrote about this story.)

The larger issue that the Free Beacon is dealing with is the blowback from all the rest of the police who are out there doing their jobs as best they can under difficult and frequently dangerous conditions. If Rolfe can be thrown to the wolves without at least the benefit of a full investigation, why should the rest of the police expect to be treated any differently if they are caught in a split-second life and death situation? For the moment, the “blue flu” seems to have been mostly confined to Atlanta, but that situation may not hold forever. Being a cop doesn’t pay that much, particularly when you consider the risks that come with that line of work.

If the good cops start quitting you’ll only be left with the ones you probably like the least to begin with. And when you can’t hire enough good cops to cover all of the assigned beats, the doors are open for a return to the bad old days of the 80s and 90s with staggering murder rates and increasing property crimes. Oh, and you’ll need to round up some volunteers to handle all of the riots since they probably won’t slow down all that much either.

We still come across some bad cops every once in a while. The police forces of our nation are comprised of human beings, so that’s inevitable. And when they are identified, they must be dealt with swiftly and transparently to encourage trust from the public. But scapegoating all of the cops to answer some “moment” in social unrest is a self-defeating proposition.