Is the 'War on Cops' rhetoric making police violence worse?
“After being inundated with the message that anyone, anywhere and at any time might ambush me," writes Officer Louis Hayes, "is it any surprise that I or other police officers might be fearful on the job?”
One Chicago police officer wrote in September that this year’s firearms-related police homicides don’t tell a full story, and that “the facts show that there is no national 'War on Cops'.”
In July, 12 officers were shot and five killed in Dallas during protests, and 10 days later, six officers were shot and three killed in Baton Rouge, La. At that point, police departments nationwide started asking officers to pair up in response to the spike in ambushes targeting police.
The concept of a "War on Cops" was growing, and Doug Wyllie, editor-at-large of PoliceOne.com, had been covering it closely when officer Louis Hayes published his article.
Hayes argued in “Police like me are taught to fear Americans instead of protect them. And people will die because of it” that emotional imagery and war stories are more compelling than statistics, and that the idea of a "War on Cops" inflames the collective law enforcement mindset as much as it overlooks the facts.
“After being inundated with the message that anyone, anywhere and at any time might ambush me (and that these sorts of attacks are on the rise), is it any surprise that I or other police officers might be fearful on the job?” Hayes wrote.
Wyllie interviewed Hayes to find out how he came to his conclusions, and wrote about it on PoliceOne.com. He maintains his disagreement with Hayes’ perspective.
It flies in the face of what we see anecdotally, that there has been an increase in the number who are going out and hunting police officers,” Wyllie told EfficientGov recently.
The Hayes Argument
Hayes cited a July report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) finding that firearms-related homicides of police officers were up compared to 2015.
“According to the FBI, of the 41 police officers feloniously murdered in 2015, seven were killed in ambushes or unprovoked attacks. In the first half of 2016, with already 14 already tallied, ambush murders have also spiked as compared to last year. And yet these numbers don’t tell the full story. In fact, police officers are safer today than they have ever been…Police officer deaths overall have been declining since the mid-1970s...” wrote Hayes.
Hayes told Wyllie that the idea of a "War on Cops" is really an emotional thing and that he believes much of this mindset is rooted in police training that focuses too heavily on worst-case scenarios.
“We’re almost ignoring the data, the statistics and the probabilities. We’re just inundating our young people in police academies, who are very impressionable, with this worst-case mentality in a way that’s unhealthy. Obviously you have to have some element of that, but it’s got to be balanced in a way that says it’s okay to let old ladies keep their hands in their pockets when it’s cold outside…We’re basically keeping our cops from being able to think through these problems and understand the context. In doing so, we’re creating scared cops that think every old lady is going to attack them, and every young kid is going to have a gun in his pants and the ninjas are going to pop out of the ceiling on building searches and there’s a suspect in the trunk of every car that you stop. It’s almost become to the point where it never stops — to the point where it’s paralyzing our people from making good decisions.”
Wyllie told EfficientGov that there is considerable evidence of planning and plotting by those suspects who have attacked and killed law enforcement officers in ambush style this year.
People like Maurice Clemmons, who shot and killed four police officers in Lakewood, Wash., in 2009 “deliberately want to add their name to the history books,” he said.
Suspects in police ambush attacks show the same deliberateness that “active killers” display because they shoot to kill in numbers, he explained. In 2016, there is evidence that the police ambush suspects have methodically composed their attacks in an effort to kill the most police officers they could, said Wyllie
In Micah Johnson’s case, the suspect in the July Dallas police shootings, he reportedly told officers in a standoff that he was upset about the recent shootings of Philandro Castro in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, two unarmed black men. Associated Press also reported that Johnson said he wanted to assassinate white officers.
Wyllie noted that the statistics — Hayes’ chief argument against the existence of a "War on Cops," which compares recent data to the number of law enforcement officers attacked and killed in the 1970s — comes later. It may be too soon to prove there is a "War on Cops" with numbers, but he believes that the manner in which suspect after suspect is hunting police officers in the ambush attacks is evidence that this war is real.
The second reason Wyllie believes that there is a "War on Cops" is how national media is “fomenting disagreement,” said Wyllie.
After speaking with Hayes, the PoliceOne editor-at-large wrote, “War certainly has its physical elements, but a couple of other important tactics to consider are psychological operations (PSYOPS) and propaganda. And there is widespread belief that police are under attack by both tactics.”
The Black Lives Matter Factor
Hundreds of PoliceOne members commented on Wyllie’s Hayes interview article. And in a PoliceOne.com poll question, about 92% of more than 1,550 respondents said that there is a "War on Cops."
One PoliceOne member speculated what many police officers perceive this war to be coming from.
I agree with some of the ideas that Hayes offers, mainly that there has been a steady statistical decline in the number of officers murdered in the line of duty from the 1970s to today. That is an indisputable fact. What Officer Hayes does not address at all is the Black Lives Matter movement, which was the prime motivation behind the mass shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge as well as several other attacks on officers nationwide. The increase in killings of officers in 2016 is largely because of BLM propaganda and the falsehoods they have promulgated to the black community and the American public. BLM is not going away...”
On November 7th, Enrique Zamarripa, father of Dallas police Officer Patrick Zamarripa, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas against Black Lives Matter, the Nation of Islam, Reverend Al Sharpton, the New Black Panthers Party and several others including specific activists.
The original July protest in Dallas — part of a campaign against what social justice groups consider widespread, chronic police brutality against minorities and in direct response to the shooting deaths of Castro and Sterling — was organized by the non-profit Next Generation Action Network. The group claimed no affiliation with Johnson and posted a statement condemning his police shootings.
While the group has marched under banners that say “Black Lives Matter,” it was not named in Zamarippa’s lawsuit, and is not a chapter of BLM.
The Latest Numbers
Wyllie then wrote that ambush attacks are currently on the rise.
According to additional NLEOMF information shared with Wyllie, police officers have also been shot and killed in ambush attacks in Salt Lake City, Danville, Ohio, Bel Air and Landover, Md., and in Prince William and Richmond, Va. There were also ambush attacks in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania from which officers involved survived.
What Can Civic Leaders Do?
Whether or not there is a "War on Cops" that connects deadly police ambush attacks, most civic leaders cannot avoid the subject of brewing tensions among citizens and law enforcement.
Where, when and why the next police ambush takes place — or officer-involved shooting — is of course unknown. But by keeping close tabs on what is happening in communities that run these risks, civic leaders can help increase the safety of law enforcement officers and citizens that both feel they are targeted by the other group. Ask:
- Are police threats by residents on the rise, in person and on social media?
- Are police officers reporting heightened tensions in certain areas?
- What can community leaders tell you about injustice residents are experiencing?
Resources are available to help communities address tensions:
- Read the 7 steps civic leaders can take to address racial inequalities from the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) initiative.
- Find out how Los Angeles backed up its law enforcement officers in an effort to protect them from attacks.
- Review Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter: Racial Disparity and a Review of Police-Community Relations from the International City/County Management Association. The full article, part of the 2015 Municipal Year Book, offers a framework for discussing use-of-force policies and strategies local officials can employ to ensure police accountability.
- Public Safety