Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s dismissal Tuesday of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy following the release of a video showing white police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald last year is not a solution to the controversy; it’s a symptom of the demonization of police in America. Overreacting to one example of police misconduct risks putting our communities in danger.
The appointment of a commission to investigate the police department is another example of pandering to those who shout the loudest, and will more then likely have little effect on how the Chicago police department operates in the future. And the call for a Department of Justice investigation will likely result in the appointment of a monitor who will spend years studying the department, “earn” millions of dollars and have little impact on how the police and community interact.
McCarthy is recognized by police chiefs of major cities throughout this country as a progressive thought leader who knows how to reduce crime and protect his community. His dismissal will magnify the “Ferguson effect” that FBI Director James B. Comey said is causing police officers to be less responsive to crime and fearful that every action they take will be second-guessed.
Over the past 20 years, police across this country have had a real impact on crime. Murders reached their lowest numbers in memory. Property crimes and violent crimes are about half of what they were, and inner cities began to see rebirths that were unimaginable in the 80s and early 90s. We are in real danger of seeing those gains reversed.
Homicides, shootings, rapes and assaults are beginning to rise in many cities. Criminals who feared the police and believed that there was a certainty of arrest have now been emboldened by the War on Police by politicians, pundits and our national leaders.
Police-community relations are fundamentally important in our country. No law-abiding citizen should fear police. In those rare instances where police violate someone’s rights, they should be punished or dismissed. Any objective look at the number of these instances reveals that they are a very small part of police interactions with their communities.
The shooting of Laquan Macdonald appears to be a grievous abuse of authority that will be adjudicated by our system of justice. It is the action of an individual officer, not an entire department. When we overreact as Mayor Emanuel has in dismissing a talented and effective police leader, we endanger both the police and the public. We cannot let emotion and politics return us to the bad old days.
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