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Letter: It’s impossible to forget

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It’s impossible to forget, just four days before last Christmas, two New York City police officers were ambushed, and murdered, in their parked patrol car in Brooklyn. The murderer attributed his motive to revenge, and his cowardly act came only days after Al Sharpton’s “National Action Network” led protesters through the streets of New York City chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do what them? Now!”

This ridiculous rhetoric is nonetheless resonating with a growing number of people in our country, despite the majority of police officers voluntarily place their own lives in harm’s way to serve our communities, and protect our children, regardless of color, even though they may never get to see their own children again, in doing so. They wake up every morning knowing they’ll be subjected to cursing and screaming tantrums, and outright challenges to their authority.

They go to work knowing that an officer is killed every 58 hours in our country, leaving behind countless sons and daughters, and wives and husbands, who must now live their own lives without their loved ones, so that we might live better and safer lives, instead.

From Ferguson to Baltimore, officers are increasingly being accused of racism and the use of excessive force. But are there bad police officers? Surely there are, just as there are bad plumbers, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, etc. who all could do their jobs better. There’s no doubt.

Out of 800,000 officers across the country, certainly there’s some percentage of them who are racist. There’s no doubt. Some who are too aggressive or make very poor judgments. Again, there’s no doubt.

But an encounter with an officer isn’t an opportunity to prove these points, or become part of a YouTube video documenting your disrespect of authority.

As Franklin Graham put it, “If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air.”

The trouble is we’re pushing police out of our neighborhoods, and it’s in the highest crime areas –– where obviously they’re needed the most. Because even the mere allegation of police misconduct will cost an officer his career, many are choosing to honor their duty, but not much more.

You see, “proactive” policing is on the decline. This is the practice of officers getting out of their patrol cars, arresting offenders for less serious crimes, and sending them to jail for a few days or weeks, and thereby keeping the offenders too busy to commit more serious crimes in the community.

This practice has been credited in New York City over the past 20 years with the largest crime drop on record – and overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods. The prison population has also declined, as a result, even as prison populations continue rising across the country.

And yet many, like the mayor of Baltimore, who wanted to give space to “those who wished to destroy” during the recent riots, simply don’t realize how less law enforcement is deadly to the very communities who need it most.

Gun violence is now up more than 60% in Baltimore, with 32 shootings over Memorial Day weekend. In Milwaukee, homicides are up 180% this year. Same in St. Louis, where shootings are up 39%, robberies 43%, and homicides 25%.

In Atlanta, killings are up 32%. In Chicago, shootings are up 24% and homicides are up 17%. It’s epidemic, and fear of misconduct claims are sending our officers into virtual hibernation.

A Los Angeles Police Department lieutenant put it this way: “I get a lot of calls where the officers are basically telling me they’re going to roll up their windows, and they’re just going to go from call to call…and do their job. But other than that, they’re just going to shut down. They’re not going to do any proactive police work.”

And that’s not good for anyone, especially now that President Obama just announced in Philadelphia that he wants to reduce minimum sentencing, and reduce the number of incarcerations from drug offenses. If that happens, our jail population will decrease, putting more pressure on our officers to practice proactive policing, even as we categorically demonize them for doing so. The timing could not be worse.

Here’s the bottom line: Without police, law and order, we have nothing. I know some readers will say, “That’s easy for a white guy to say,” but regardless of our colors, most police officers don’t deserve to be argued with, threatened, or called names. Most deserve our respect, and if our nation is to flourish again, the good ones must be invited back in our communities before it’s too late. As it’s often said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Louis Avallone,

Shreveport