Murder is a tragedy regardless of whether the victim is an average citizen or a police officer. But the fiction that there is some kind of “war on cops” or, worse yet, that the Black Lives Matter movement has somehow created an open season for shooting cops is both patently false and deeply problematic. The “war on cops” narrative isn’t just dead wrong. It is also a deliberate misinformation campaign designed to deflect attention from the true issue our nation is grappling with: that far too often, law enforcement treats people of color as undeserving of basic rights. This type of oppression must finally stop.
The reality is that 2015 is on track to have the second lowest rate of (non-accidental, non-self-inflicted) cop shootings in decades. The Washington Post has a couple of charts that show you just how false the “war on cops” narrative is. Note the steady declines:
Against the backdrop of reality, how can anyone possibly claim that protesters asserting the inarguable truth that black lives matter are somehow causing a backlash of violence against cops? And yet, it’s all over the media: the false claims that a “war on cops” is causing crime to increase, police forces to decline, and resulting violence.
Several of the media’s mainstays for the “war on cops” have crumbled recently, showing just how contrived this false narrative is.
- Police officer Lt. Joe Gliniewicz of Fox Lake, Illinois, was shot and killed on September 1, 2015. This shooting sparked national outrage from conservative media sources and politicians who claimed it as proof of a “war on cops” sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement. Except it turns out that the shooting was actually a carefully staged suicide by Gliniewicz, just as his stealing and money laundering of funds from a youth mentor program was coming to light.
- On June 9, 2015, Houston police officer Terry Smith was shot in the back after concluding a routine traffic stop. Both he and the other officer on the scene claimed to have seen a suspect’s car in connection with the shooting, and Houston’s police chief speculated to the media that the shooting may have targeted Officer Smith due to “tensions between officers and the public in other parts of the country.” The police union chimed in with a similar refrain. Except it turns out that, again, this wasn’t anyone targeting police officers. Instead, it now appears that the officers’ entire story was invented. The Houston Police Department now believes that Officer Smith was probably hit by gunfire from his friend at the scene, and there were no assailants present and no suspect’s car to track.
- In September 2015, Massachusetts police officer Bryan Johnson claimed that his marked police car came under fire from an oncoming truck, hit a tree and burst into flames. It turns out, however, that Johnson fired his own service weapon into his car three times before crashing it into a tree, where it caught fire.
Yet, news sources and others were all too quick to use these incidents as proof that cops are under siege. The real problem with this false “war on cops” narrative is that it is played as a trump card to drown out the important conversations our society needs to have about issues like police brutality, unwarranted police shootings, the use of dashboard cameras, the militarization of our police forces, the blue wall of silence, the lack of police accountability, and racial profiling. It’s also used as a mechanism to falsely discredit the Black Lives Matter movement and draw attention away from the valid issues raised by the movement about law enforcement’s frequent disregard for black lives. The demand that police abuses stop is not a “war on cops.” Similarly, the narrative that police need to be allowed to brutalize people of color to reduce crime is equally offensive. It’s time for police to root out these racist attitudes.