In case you missed it, 106 people were shot in Chicago last weekend. That’s not a typo – 106.
If mainstream news organizations still covered the news, instead of only the news that serves or refutes an agenda, we might have heard more.
Of the 106 people shot, 14 – including a 3-year-old boy – were killed.
When asked about the catalysts for such violence, Chicago police Superintendent David Brown boiled it down – “gangs, guns and drugs.”
And then, amid the national cacophony of calls to defund and/or abolish local police departments, overhaul the criminal justice system, release criminals from prison, and the establishment of police-free zones by anarchists in big cities, the superintendent said something really interesting.
“There are too many violent offenders not in jail, or on electronic monitoring, which no one is really monitoring,” Brown said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “We need violent felons to stay in jail longer and we need improvements to the home monitoring system.”
It sounds as if the last thing law enforcement in Chicago needs is fewer resources. And despite efforts by a sympathetic media and others to explain away what “defund” the police really means, Chicago’s mayor seems to understand.
“When you talk about defunding, you’re talking about getting rid of officers,” Lori Lightfoot, Chicago’s first black female mayor, told the New York Times.
In September, Lightfoot, a Democrat, told Edward McClelland, of Chicago Magazine, that “we’ve got to stop treating black and brown folks like they’re expendable. A militarized response to the violence isn’t what people want, and more to the point, it’s not effective.”
Earlier this month, as McClelland wrote, Lightfoot called in the National Guard to deal with rioting and looting following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
It’s easy to speak out against a militarized response, until your city is on fire.
In the same interview with the Times, Lightfoot said there is a “cultural dysfunction” within the Chicago police department. But even she realizes taking officers off the street will do nothing to curb the city’s epidemic of violent crime.
When it comes to law enforcement, trying to do more with less is never a sound strategy.
Reform is necessary. Bad cops need to be weeded out and not shielded by unions. Better engagement is needed between local police departments and minority communities. Cops are not social workers, nor should we expect them to be. But policing will never be an exact science.
Police officers are not robots. They’re doing a job most of us would never dream of doing. Mistakes will be made. And I’m not in any way suggesting that what happened to George Floyd was a mistake. The video speaks for itself.
But it’s very easy to ask, after the fact, “Why did you have to shoot him?” “Couldn’t you have just shot him in the leg?” Real life isn’t an episode of “Starsky and Hutch.”
In real life, the decision to use force is made in fractions of seconds. Sometimes, suspects are armed, sometimes they’re not. Often, you don’t know.
On May 28, at 12:15 p.m., Officer Nate Lyday, of the Ogden, Utah, police department, responded to a domestic violence call. A woman told a 911 dispatcher her husband was trying to kill her. When Lyday and a probation officer reached the house, the suspect, a 53-year-old man, was sitting on the front porch. The suspect was uncooperative, according to investigators, and after a brief discussion, went back into the house, slamming the door behind him.
The police chief said Lyday didn’t see a weapon in the suspect’s hand when he went inside. As Lyday moved toward the front door, the suspect began firing through the door, hitting Lyday. The 24-year-old officer, with just 15 months on the job, died a short time later. He was getting ready to celebrate his fifth wedding anniversary.
This story is important because it’s not particularly unusual. It’s the sort of thing police officers face every day, in Ogden, Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York, which wants to reduce its police budget by $1 billion even though murders increased 79% in May.
There’s a conspicuous and baffling absence of outrage over what happened last weekend in Chicago. And outside of Ogden, very few know the story of Nate Lyday. We would do well to remember both, before we proceed headlong into reforms that result in de-policing.
Only civilization itself is riding on the outcome.
Copyright 2020 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]