The War on American Civilians

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Recently by William Norman Grigg: Fewer Snouts in the Trough, LessCrime in the Streets

Every week — actually, every day — innocent people across the country are harassed, abused, brutalized, tortured, and murdered by armed strangers in government-issued costumes. Most of the assailants are never held accountable. Often, they are placed on paid vacation (commonly called "administrative leave") while their colleagues devise an official rationalization for their crimes.

According to one very conservative estimate, at least thirty citizens are killed in police shootings every month, many of which occur during paramilitary raids conducted, Soviet-style, at daybreak or nighttime. Innocent people are frequently found among those killed, wounded, or brutalized in those raids; one recent example is 76-year-old New York resident Jose Colon, who was shot in the stomach by a SWAT operator who pulled the trigger trying to operate a flashlight on his tricked-out pistol.

The grim but statistically inescapable fact is that the average American is much more likely to be killed by a cop than by a terrorist.

Those who publicize police abuses are routinely accused by apologists for government enforcement agencies of exaggerating the problem by focusing on a vanishingly small number of "exceptional" cases. When police are on the receiving end of criminal violence, however, those same apologists demand that we allow such exceptions to define the rule.

On the basis of recent trends, we can assume that two dozen or more Americans have been shot by police since January 1, 2011. In the same period, roughly half that many police have been shot, 11 of them either injured or killed during one unusually bloody twenty-four-hour period. This unconnected series of shootings has led many police officers to believe that they are targets in a "war on cops," and that alarmist impression has been diligently propagated by police union officials who are always eager to exaggerate the very modest dangers of their profession.

"It's not a fluke," insists Richard Roberts, spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations. "There's a perception among officers in the field that there's a war on cops going on." Craig W. Floyd of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund described a “very troubling trend” of “officers … being put at greater risk than ever before.”

“I think it’s a hundred times more likely today that an officer will be assaulted compared to twenty, thirty years ago,” agreed J.B. Smith, Sheriff of Smith, County, Texas, in an interview with Tyler’s NBC affiliate KETK. “It has become one of the most hazardous jobs in the United States, undoubtedly — in the top five.”

Actually, where the risk of death on the job is concerned, law enforcement doesn’t crack the top ten list of most dangerous occupations, as designated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, none of the jobs on that list involves people employed in the coercive sector. Commercial fishermen, loggers, commercial pilots, farmers, and roofers all face a higher risk of work-related death than that confronted by the State’s armed enforcers, for whom “officer safety” is job one.

Sheriff Smith, like others retailing the “war on cops” meme, recited the durable canard that police “work” is more dangerous today because they confront a more violent breed of street criminal. Five years ago, Joseph McNamara of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, a former NYPD Deputy Inspector (and, unfortunately, an advocate of civilian disarmament), pointed out that police “work” may be safer now than ever before.

In 2005, McNamara noted, fifty-one officers died in the line of duty “out of some 700,000 to 800,000 American cops. That is far fewer than the police fatalities occurring when I patrolled New York's highest crime precincts, when the total number of cops in the country was half that of today.”

Yes, there is a war on the streets of America, McNamara allowed, but it is one waged by the cops, not on them:

“Simply put, the police culture in our country has changed. An emphasis on ‘officer safety’ and paramilitary training pervades today's policing, in contrast to the older culture, which held that cops didn't shoot until they were about to be shot or stabbed. Police in large cities formerly carried revolvers holding six .38-caliber rounds. Nowadays, police carry semi-automatic pistols with 16 high-caliber rounds, shotguns and military assault rifles, weapons once relegated to SWAT teams facing extraordinary circumstances. Concern about such firepower in densely populated areas hitting innocent citizens has given way to an attitude that the police are fighting a war against drugs and crime and must be heavily armed.”

Government police agencies were always designed to control the public, rather than to “protect and serve” it. As sociologist David Bayley memorably put it, “The police are to the government as the edge is to the knife.” Thanks in no small measure to the proliferation of independent media, the public is coming to understand that fact.

A large and growing segment of the public likewise has become palpably disgusted with the casual elitism of the armed tax-feeders among us, who see themselves as a caste apart from, and superior to, those from whom they extract their livelihood. The police unions and media organs that take dictation from them insist that the purported “war on cops” is being fueled by a growing public “disrespect” for the “authority” of police.

“The palm-sized shield worn on a police officer's chest should be viewed as a badge of honor, not a bull's-eye,” sobbed the editorial collective of the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader in a lachrymose house editorial that typifies media treatment of the supposed “war” on police. “Sadly, recent deadly shootings around the nation and alleged threats directed at Luzerne County law enforcers reveal a troubling lack of respect for officers' authority and responsibilities, as well as their lives.”

The “threats” in question were allegedly made by 45-year-old Scanton resident Ray Mazzarella, who was arrested and charged with several counts of making “terroristic threats” for inflammatory comments he had posted about the local police chief on his Facebook page. Were the rational for Mazzarella’s pre-emptive arrest applied consistently, scores or hundreds of police officers would have to be locked up and put on trial for equally inflammatory statements posted on chat boards frequented by LEOs. Of course, by even making that point I’m undermining public “respect” for police “authority” — thereby, one supposes, abetting violence against our sanctified protectors.

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William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.

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