Reducing our nation’s racial divisions to mere puppetry, FBI Director James Comey misquoted the Broadway play “Avenue Q” last night, saying that “everyone’s a little bit racist.” (The song title is “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist”) Not being enculturated into the performance art of microaggressions, I had to watch it for myself.
This is the—serious, not parody—worldview which frames Comey’s discussion of police bias. Comey’s Left-leaning pop-sociology approach might lack teeth, but he had one good idea: a national police shooting database. That’s such a good idea that it’s amazing nobody thought of it already. Oh wait, they have: it seems that the very agency he works for already has one. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has an Arrest-Related Deaths database, although it’s woefully out of date.
Even so, there was a modicum of truth in Comey’s speech at Georgetown University.
Police officers on patrol in our nation’s cities often work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color.
Something happens to people of good will working in that environment. After years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel.
Yes. True. If someone lies to you enough, you kind of expect the lie. If enough droopy-pants, cursing teenagers glance hatefully at your presence, you kind of start feeling hated. Is this cynicism? Do police who, day after day, encounter the same cycle of crime, lying, poverty, and rejection of any form of responsibility, need to face up to some role in perpetuating this?
Policing is just a job, but it’s more than a job. It’s in a category like firefighting and medicine—Comey got it right when he said that nearly all police officers had joined the force because they wanted to help others. He got it wrong when he dredged up the past, relying on stereotypes of Irish immigrants.
Speaking in personal terms, Mr. Comey described how most Americans had initially viewed Irish immigrants like his ancestors “as drunks, ruffians and criminals.”
“Law enforcement’s biased view of the Irish lives on in the nickname we still use for the vehicle that transports groups of prisoners; it is, after all, the ‘Paddy wagon,’ ” he said.
But he said that what the Irish had gone through was nothing compared with what blacks had faced.
“That experience should be part of every American’s consciousness, and law enforcement’s role in that experience, including in recent times, must be remembered,” he said. “It is our cultural inheritance.”
About the national cop shooting database, The New York Times wrote
[Comey] also recommended that law enforcement agencies be compelled, by legislation if necessary, to report shootings that involve police officers, and that those reports be recorded in an accessible database. When Mr. Brown was shot in Ferguson, Mr. Comey said, F.B.I. officials could not say whether such shootings were common or rare because no statistics were available. [my bold]
“It’s ridiculous that I can’t tell you how many people were shot by the police last week, last month, last year,” Mr. Comey said.
It is ridiculous that he can’t tell us how many people were shot by the police last week. To test this assertion, I Googled “how many people were shot by police last week” and got several excellent links, in addition to the media reports of “no one knows” (they say “no one knows” because the federal government—the Left’s only primary source—doesn’t officially “know”).
Killed By Police keeps a pretty good count. It’s not comprehensive in the sense that mandatory reporting to the government would be, but the data collection looks sound. According to their Facebook page:
At least 127 people have been killed by U.S. police since January 1, 2015.
At least 1,102 were killed in 2014.
At least 1,997 have been killed since May 1, 2013.
It might be a good idea for the folks at the Bureau of Justice Statistics to contact the site for tips on keeping their data current.
While legislation compelling local law enforcement to report cop-related shootings to the Feds sounds nice, in practice, it’s just more paperwork, more expense, and another thing to eat up valuable police resources instead of doing the job: policing.
We can do with a bit more policing from the Director of the FBI, and a bit less sociological mumbo-jumbo and stereotyping from the podium.