This war on law and order is as dangerous as any global enemy we face. And it's built on a lie.
War is being waged in our homeland. Not a war of the enemies we have become accustomed to—ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, radical extremists who hate everything we stand for and want to annihilate us.
No, this war is of our own making. It is a war on law and order. It is a war on what keeps our communities safe. It is a war on cops who live to protect those they serve.
This war is as dangerous as any global enemy we face. In some ways, it is even more dangerous because it pits Americans against Americans, those who serve against those who are served, communities against their very own.
What is worst of all is that this war is built on a lie…. a lie that has quickly become so embedded in our society that it will take a Herculean effort to bring this lie to the light of day so everyone can see it for what it is: a lie.
Our nation’s police are not at war on blacks or Hispanics or poor neighborhoods. Cops fight lawlessness each and every day, putting their lives on the line in communities all across this country to keep our citizens, children, schools, institutions, and neighborhoods safe.
Yet if you have listened to some in the media, purported civil rights leader Al Sharpton, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and others around the country over the last several weeks, you’re forced to believe that nearly all of America’s local and state police are out to kill minorities.
It’s a lie! It’s a lie that has inflamed the hearts and minds of many and turned them against every cop in the nation. It’s a lie that has the potential to rip America at its seams and cause damage far worse than any attack on our country, including that on 9/11/2001.
It’s a lie that has caused protests and riots all over this nation, communities to be burned to the ground, police officers to be attacked and beaten, and horribly, two New York City police officers to be assassinated.
If this lie and the behaviors it incites continue, America will look more like a wasteland than the greatest country in the world in just a few short years. Lawlessness will rule. We will face devastation in social, economic, political, and unfathomable ways. No community will be safe.
Leaders in every community, every school, college and institution, every arena of our government—including the President, the Attorney General, governors, legislators, mayors, lawyers, community activists, clergy, parents, and—in actuality, all Americans—need to stand up and tell the truth.
Michael Brown committed a strong armed robbery, attacked and assaulted a uniformed policeman, attempted to take the officer’s gun, and resisted arrest. Even after being shot by the officer he was assaulting, Mr. Brown attacked him again and did not stop until the officer fired repeatedly. Michael Brown was not stopped because of the color of his skin, and he did not have his hands up!
Eric Garner was selling cigarettes illegally. He was violating a law that was written by some of the very politicians who criticize the police for taking police action. There was a complaint made to the police and they responded. Unfortunately, Mr. Garner resisted arrest and died as a result. He was not targeted because of the color of his skin; he was targeted because the local merchants called for law enforcement. He was targeted because those legislators who don’t have the courage to tell the truth enacted a law that made Mr. Garner’s conduct a crime.
Mr. Garner’s wife and his daughter have both said his arrest had nothing to do with race, but Mayor de Blasio, Al Sharpton, and others continue to beat the drum, broad brushing cops all over this nation as racists.
May there be cops in our country who are racist? We’d be naïve to think not. But I can assure you that that number is far less than the bigotry I’ve seen expressed toward our police in the last several weeks by our local, state, and federal elected officials, community and civil rights leaders, and protesters.
Cops don’t target race; they target crime. Cops don’t go into minority communities to harass minorities; they go because that’s where crime is happening. That’s where they go to save lives. That’s where they have reduced homicide and violent crime rates by more than 80% in New York City, yet you would never know that by listening to New York City’s Mayor de Blasio.
NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were assassinated over the weekend because their assassin believed the lies perpetrated by de Blasio, Sharpton and others.
It’s ironic that a 13-year-old knows better.
Jaden Ramos, son of slain Officer Rafael Ramos said, “Everyone says they hate cops but they are the people that they call for help.”
THAT IS THE TRUTH! A truth that society has forgotten and conveniently ignored.
The lies must stop. Our country’s leadership needs to stand up to the lawless and to the instigators who are perpetuating these lies.
Every American has a stake in what is happening. Now is the time for each of us to speak up, to voice our support for law and order in the United States of America and for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.
Bernard B. Kerik served as the 40th Police Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (2000-2001) and is Founder and CEO of The Kerik Group.
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.