My Feelings on the Police, Race, and Killings
Note: the embedded links go to the sources for each claim. If any are broken let me know. I took most of them from POC or highly liberal individuals to rid them of “tainted well” syndrome. Not proofread yet.
Much of the following is taken from the work of Dr. Omar Wasow, as he is my primary influence in thinking about statistics of relations between races, and also in interactions between law enforcement and civilians. Over the years I have commented negatively on no-knock warrants (including the time two young kids got grenaded in Billings, Montana, due to an address error), civil asset forfeiture, police militarization, and more. Although the Reason Foundation influences my feelings on liberty, including from oppressive militarization, most of my philosophical stance on that comes from my understanding of Christianity.
In any case, Dr. Wasow is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton and received a PhD in African American Studies, an MA in Government, and an MA in Statistics from Harvard University. He also co-founded BlackPlanet.com and the admirable Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School.
Although it’s tempting to label groups with a broad brush, I don’t think that we should. I also think that the way we approach our anger is worth discussing. Just as it’s important that we turn from BlackLivesMatter to BlackPolicyMatters, it’s also important that we not bring some unrighteous discredit upon a righteous movement. Let’s not ignore how much power we’ve given government to rule over us, how 2% of the bad cop population creates 50% of the complaints with impunity, and everything we know about the statistics of race relations and how to improve them. And we must remember that historically in matters of race relations, peaceful demonstrations which expose the brutality of the system work far better than violence.
Dr. Wasow says that there are specific reforms that federal, state, local officials, and activists should pursue to make it less likely that the killings like those of #GeorgeFloyd and #BreonnaTaylor happen again. They are:
- Recruit law enforcement from the areas they’ll serve. The FBI realized this long ago and began recruiting “from the hood and from the hillbillies.” LEOs from such areas are less likely to respond lethally to perceived threats, as they are more familiar with typical behavior patterns.
- End qualified immunity.
- End civil asset forfeiture.
- End the drug war.
- End overcriminalization.
- End no-knock warrants.
- End militarization of police.
- End mandatory minimums.
- Encourage the nuclear family
- Alter existing methods of revenue collection in support of the above (historically, some minority neighborhoods are caught in a feedback loop regarding revenue collection)
Law enforcement officers are not all evil people, and writing “ACAB” or “FTP” is deleterious. As we saw above, only a small percentage of them need to be terminated. In matters of race, officers of color are as likely to kill people of color as their white counterparts, and many confounding factors, such as urbanization, socioeconomic status, and nature of crime tend (for example, the FBI reports that the nature of the crimes committed tend to place certain ethnic backgrounds in far more situations where lethal force might be used than one would expect given population demographics) not to be figured into why certain segments of the POC populace are killed at a higher rate in their interactions with police. When controlled for, systemic, aggressive racism is much less impactful than one would previously imagine, while differences in cultural interactions are much more apparent.
One may more fruitfully argue how to ameliorate (consider one method such as encouraging the repair of the family unit, given that fatherlessness is the single best predictor of violence in young men) the latter of the above with this knowledge in hand, as Dr. Wasow has pointed out. Through a spiritual or evolutionary lens, the statistics of familial discord and resultant violence, coupled with societal dysfunction, are largely the same. That is, if one believes in evolution selecting for greater reproductive success with intact, nuclear families, or if you believe that fathers need to be involved, and families need to remain intact as a consequence of God’s moral design, either has the same solution: fix the family, and thus reduce violence and death. Fixing families will require more than just fixing law enforcement, but is certainly a part of fixing law enforcement, too. Although already linked above, the statistics contained in this link are important.
With the above said, we do need reform in the criminal justice system. In an interview with Reason Foundation’s Nick Gillespie, former undercover FBI agent Michael German (who whistleblew on the FBI and has subsequently gone on to work for the ACLU trying to right the type of injustices he saw occurring) remarked that he incredible power we’ve given law enforcement since 9/11 has made the nature of LEO-civilian interactions far worse. In the interview, he notes that law enforcement is more likely to seek to create offenders for a variety of reasons, including budget justification simply because they’ve been trained to do so.
As a parting thought, don’t give in to neo-racism. That makes things worse, and there’s no reason to do it: just consider what would have happened if we’d done that at the turn of the previous century with whites. In fact, if every person did just two, simple actions, all the problems would go away. But it must be done by the person, not by a group:
- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
- And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus said that everything depended on the above. He’s right. What loving entails might put us far out of our comfort zones. So fight for needed reforms, but don’t fail to do it based on the above two criteria.