On July 12, a Jackson Township, New Jersey, man was arrested for firing a gun and making death threats against police officers.
He lived to go to trial.
On July 20, a Canton, Ohio, man stabbed a police officer with a pair of gardening sheers.
He, too, is headed for trial.
The incidents in Jackson Township and Canton ended the way they should have, with no one being killed. The officers involved should be commended for exercising professionalism and restraint.
This is the crux of the calls for policing reform: Too many unarmed Black and Latino Americans have been killed for a lot less during police encounters that should never have ended in bloodshed.
Proportionately, Blacks and Latinos are three times as likely to die during a police encounter, than whites. It’s an unfortunate club that includes George Floyd, Philando Castile, John Crawford III, Breonna Taylor and far too many others to list.
Last summer in Aurora, Colorado, Elijah McClain died from a police chokehold, not because he was violent, but because he was eccentric. Someone called the police on McClain because he was behaving “suspiciously” while walking home from a store.
McClain was a vegetarian who played the violin. It was the equivalent of killing “Steve Urkel.”
Numerous studies have determined that America is first among industrialized nations when it comes to police-civilian encounters turning fatal.
The U.S. averages 33.5 deaths per 10 million people, or 1,100 such incidents a year. The nearest nation is Canada, at 9.8 deaths per year.
Are we really that much more violent compared to people in other countries? Really?
There are times when we absolutely need a Detective John McClain, the death-defying hero of “Die Hard.”
But not on a traffic stop.
We need more Sheriff Andy Taylors and fewer “Dirty Harry” Callahans.
It’s often argued that most of the issues are caused by a few bad apples. The problem is there are too many silent apples.
Let’s be clear: Calls to abolish or defund police departments are as absurd as they are naive.
It isn’t a binary choice.
Reform, a return to community policing, more accountability, and a move away from militarization and toward more training in de-escalation are not unreasonable requests.
There must be a greater effort to serve people suffering from serious mental illness, which constitutes a lot of police calls.
Police themselves also need more support and access to mental health services, and they shouldn’t be ostracized for seeking it. Though the vast majority of officers have never hurt anyone, the job is still a pressure cooker. At least 20% of officers have PTSD. Throwing trauma-induced stress into the equation is a formula for tragedy.
The America of 2020 is not the fictional Mayberry of 1960. Andy Taylor and Barney Fife never had to administer Narcan. There were three minorities and no protests. In 2020, Americans are more cynical and less respectful of institutions and authority, but neither are we a lost cause.
Serious crime has been on the decline for more than 30 years, but to look at the news and social media, you’d think it was the End of Days. You need only to look out your own window to know this isn’t true.
All that’s being asked is that everyone receive the same measure of service and treatment.