Commentary

Targeted Police Killings Rise, Due to Media Distortions

Hans Bader | October 17, 2022 | 11:10am EDT
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw notes that targeted police killings are rising as a result of growing hostility to the police. At least 11 cops were shot in just the past week. The hostility to the police is fanned by the progressive media, which falsely depicts the police as hunting innocent black people.

As Shaw notes,

In Bristol, Connecticut this week, two police officers were murdered and a third was wounded by gunfire in what was clearly an ambush after a phony 911 call was received. Thankfully, the wounded police officer, rather than retreating, returned fire and killed the attacker, saving the public the bother of a trial. This would obviously be grim news under any circumstances, but the attack does not appear to be just some random, one-off act by a maniac. Police are being attacked around the United States, often fatally, in numbers that haven’t been seen in many years....the number of American police officers being killed in the line of duty is rising...Police deaths of this type in 2022 are already up by 14% over last year and by a staggering 45% over the same period in 2020, when riots and violence were filling the streets all through the summer. A deadly and disturbing pattern seems to be emerging, just as police officers have been quitting or taking early retirement in droves.

As the Associated Press notes,

According to organizations that track violence against police, 56 officers have been killed by gunfire this year — 14% more than this time last year and about 45% ahead of 2020′s pace. The country is on track for the deadliest year since 67 officers were killed in 2016.

While the figures include a few officers killed by accidental gunfire, the number of ambushes in which police were injured or killed in surprise attacks with little chance to defend themselves has soared since 2020 and accounts for nearly half the officers killed this year.

Such an attack apparently struck Wednesday in Bristol, Connecticut, where the state police said Bristol Police Sgt. Dustin Demonte and Officer Alex Hamzy were killed and Officer Alec Iurato was wounded when they responded to a 911 call that appears to have been “a deliberate act to lure law enforcement to the scene.”

As Shaw observes, "The attacks in Connecticut capped off a dangerous and frequently deadly week for the nation’s law enforcement forces. Eleven officers were shot in just the past week, including two others who were killed in Las Vegas and Mississippi. Politicians who continually blame the police for society’s ills and describe them as unrepentant racists and corrupt actors have obviously fed into this toxic mix....When cable news talking heads spend all of their time bellowing about how 'evil' or 'dangerous' the police are, some of those who are receptive to such a message will inevitably act upon it. And this applies to all aspects of governance. Look no further than the demonization of the conservative Supreme Court justices which was kept at a fever pitch for weeks until someone with a gun showed up at Brett Kavanaugh’s house hoping to assassinate him."

Why are progressives so angry at the police, to the point where a significant minority of them want to abolish the police? Because they vastly overstate the number of police shootings of unarmed black people, often by a factor of 40 or more—exaggerating police killings by around 4,000 percent. That leads some of them to falsely believe that police are literally hunting black people, when police are not doing anything of the sort.

As researcher Zach Goldberg noted last year, “A recent nationally representative survey commissioned by Skeptic Mag asked respondents to estimate the number of unarmed blacks killed by police in 2019. Overall, 44% of liberals guessed 1,000 or more.” But “the actual figure is 27,” according “to the Mapping Police Violence database,” which includes killings by off-duty cops and non-shooting deaths. 

Moreover, “the average liberal respondent also thought that a clear majority of people killed by police in 2019 were black (in actuality, roughly a quarter were).”

In 2019, 9 unarmed black people were shot and killed by police while on duty, compared with 19 whites, in a country of over 330 million people. A study by the black Harvard economist Roland Fryer found that race is not a significant factor in police shootings.

Yet progressive journalists constantly leave the impression with some readers that police can get away with killing unarmed black men.

A progressive reporter at The Washington Post wrote a news story that falsely claimed that it is "virtually impossible to sue police officers for violating a person’s civil rights.” Other journalists have claimed that cops have a "license to kill."

But the police who killed George Floyd were criminally convicted. And George Floyd’s family received a legal settlement of $27 million. Many lawsuits over police abuse are successful, and the legal defense of qualified immunity only blocks one-ninth of all lawsuits against the police.

Due to slanted media coverage, some progressives come to believe that the police are literally hunting black men. Kim Crockett, who is the general counsel of a midwestern think-tank, encountered that delusion when she wrote about a police shooting by a cop who legitimately feared for his own life: “I mentioned to a relative that I was writing about Ferguson, saying I was disturbed that our country was being rocked by a movement based on a false narrative. As if on cue, she responded angrily, ‘Look, I don’t remember the details but all I know is there are millions of black people being hunted down and murdered by the police.’ She then accused me of ‘white privilege,’ quickly shutting down the conversation.”

Crockett was writing about the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The media, such as CNN, had widely disseminated the false claim that Brown was murdered after saying “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” That false claim triggered rioting, looting, and arson in cities such as Ferguson.

But later, the media quietly repudiated that claim, admitting that “‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ was built on a lie.” 

The Washington Post reluctantly reported in 2015 that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson “was justified in shooting Brown,” according to the Civil Rights Division of the Obama Justice Department. “It was reasonable for police Officer Darren Wilson to be afraid of Michael Brown in their encounter last summer, a Justice Department investigation concluded,” admitted the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Civil Rights Division’s report detailed how both physical evidence and “credible” witnesses supported Officer Wilson’s version of the incident. On page 82, the report noted that “the shots fired” by Wilson after Michael “Brown turned around were in self-defense.” Indeed, “several of” the mostly black “witnesses stated that they would have … responded” as the police officer did.

But the false narrative of police hunting and killing black people is the dominant one on college campuses, and that has resulted in a very hostile attitude toward the police by college students:

A whopping 94 percent of Democratic college students surveyed recently responded that they support defunding the police, according to a recent online College Fix poll of 1,500 college students nationwide.

What’s more, 61 percent of Democratic college students polled responded that rioting and looting are legitimate forms of protest against racial discrimination and police brutality in America today, the results show.

At Cornell, student government members expelled peers who opposed disarming the police. At many universities, left-wing student groups now advocate abolishing the police in general, or banning police from campus.

Contrary to what some progressives may think, blacks are not in special danger from whites. As a black attorney noted in the National Review, “Between 2012 and 2015, blacks committed 85.5 percent of all black-white interracial violent victimizations…That works out to 540,360 felonious assaults on whites. Whites committed 14.4 percent of all interracial violent victimizations.” Thus, “blacks aren’t being ‘hunted’ by whites.”

But animosity against cops runs so deep in some inner city areas that this year, police were cursed out and hit by black toddlers in St. Paul, Minnesota, when they executed a search warrant. Residents of inner cities often don't cooperate with the police, resulting in unsolved homicides in places like Chicago. Chicago solves only 47 percent of cases when a murder victim is white, 33 percent when a victim is Hispanic, and a pitiful 22 percent of cases when the victim is black, according to NPR.

Most black murder victims are killed by other black people.

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