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Since the start of the Black Lives Matter era in 2015, police officers have found themselves routinely surrounded by hostile crowds when they get out of their cruisers to respond to a 911 call or to investigate suspicious behavior. In 2016, an NYPD officer described to me trying to free someone pinned under a car after an automobile accident while jeering bystanders stuck their cell phones in his face, ignoring the yellow police tape.
Now that dangerous activity has been monetized. As The Post reported over the weekend, self-described police “auditors” are trying to harass cops into hostile confrontations, to film the encounter and reap cash rewards from their anti-cop YouTube followers and from public coffers.
This self-seeking provocation is yet another reason for cops to “go fetal,” as Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel put it in 2015. Existing disincentives against proactive policing come from DAs who refuse, in the name of racial justice, to prosecute criminals and from a political class intent on demonizing cops as racists.
The resulting cratering of proactive enforcement has led to the horrifying rise in violent street crime over the last year. Early estimates of the 2020 homicide increase suggest that it will be the largest on record. A representative 70 cities and counties averaged a 35 percent homicide spike, nearly three times higher than the previous record.
The mayhem in inner-city areas has been even worse in 2021. Black children are getting gunned down in their beds, backyards and parents’ cars. And yet the media and the Democrats still focus on phantom police bias.
The elites blame the violence in part on skyrocketing gun sales since the George Floyd riots. Firearms purchases rose to the highest level in half a century, reports The Washington Post. Forty percent of those buyers were in the market for the first time last year, according to the firearms industry’s trade association; these new gun owners came from blue cities as well as from red states.
The anti-gun lobby has the causation exactly backwards. People are buying guns because of the rising violence. They aren’t the source of that violence, which comes overwhelmingly from illegal purchasers who couldn’t pass a background check in the first place. When the government fails its most elementary duty of protecting law and order, citizens are going to feel an increasing need to fend for themselves.
And now there are signs that the unchecked anarchy in the streets may be fostering vigilantism, a grim augury for civil peace. A recent viral video shows a man clubbing another man who is yelling anti-Asian slurs at pedestrians on a New York City crosswalk. The video has garnered appreciative comments from viewers.
Such violence is never justified. But the chance that individuals will take justice into their own hands increases dangerously when people believe that the state has lost the will to apprehend and punish criminals — a belief that today is more and more grounded in reality.
Every incentive is being created for cops not to engage when they should — from the risk of being sued, to being criminally tried and now to becoming the subject of harassment and threats thanks to YouTubers chasing clout.
The Biden Justice Department is scrambling to get ahead of the post-George Floyd crime surge before it torpedoes the Democratic Party’s election chances in 2022 and beyond. The Biden DOJ’s favored responses — more federally funded social programs and more gun-trafficking task forces — won’t make a dent in the anarchy, however, until President Joe Biden retracts the morale-crushing anti-cop rhetoric he deployed over the last two years.
Instead, Biden should declare that there is no government agency more dedicated to the proposition that black lives matter than the police. When the police back off, it is black lives that are lost.
Heather Mac Donald is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops.”
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