The Death of Proactive Policing Will Lead Americans to More Gravesites

There are two major reasons why the death of proactive policing (cops doing more to control crime) will erode public safety, thus leading Americans to more gravesites.

First, whatever force controls the streets reduces all others as subordinate—even the police.

Second, when police officers become reactive versus proactive, their skills erode and fewer career criminals are caught preying on others.

police officer deaths

(Photo courtesy Juan Beltran)

Controlling the Streets

Where lawlessness prevails the innocent suffer. It’s a fact of life. Is there a single example in history that contradicts this statement?

When fair-minded police officers saturate a problem area, criminals flee. As a result, they relocate to more inviting playgrounds. Any jurisdiction that has developed a “hands off” approach to policing will be their playground.

For example, a skating rink in a particular beat in my city became a hub for gangsters to hangout. Before long we experienced several shootings within a confined geographical space. Consequently, we saturated the area with patrol units and undercover cops. It wasn’t long before the bangers had to scatter like rats. We simply made them uncomfortable using legal means and they left.

Undeveloped or Eroding Skills

The most enjoyable assignment I had was as a detective in the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). Working in an undercover capacity, we’d receive tips regarding criminal activity from confidential informants.

Once we corroborated information from the intelligence, we’d follow the people that were up to no good.

Not once did we interrupt the lunch break of a law-abiding citizen. Actually, the schedules for most career criminals impacted our sleep patterns as they became active when the sun went down each day.

As a result, working a 24-hour shift was not unusual because we’d catch them in a felonious act and then petition courts for search warrants to follow-up on their crimes.

Day sleeping

(Photo courtesy health.mi)

The benefit was readily apparent to citizens, yet it also honed investigative skills that would have remained undeveloped or dormant without proactive policing.

Apathy Never Wins a Battle

Regardless of the public clamor for a kinder, gentler police presence, cops are not firefighters.

Proactive policing has the backing of research as to lowering violent crime.

Allow a bully to go unchallenged and he becomes a tyrant.

Nevertheless, I don’t need a scientific study to tell me that an area saturated with cops will have a lower crime rate. I’ve seen it, participated in it, and ordered it. Moreover, professional hoodlums know the policing philosophy of the local agency. Therefore, they know what they can and cannot get away with based upon what is tolerated.

The basic principle is this: allow a bully to go unchallenged and he becomes a tyrant.

threatening situation

(Photo courtesy Olichel)

Cowed Into a Corner

Law enforcement is being cowed into a corner by street thugs and political hacks alike. Regardless of the foibles that have occurred in isolated incidents, law enforcement leaders need to remember they have the best interests of humanity on their side when they implement policies in good faith aimed at maintaining civil order.

Baltimore six

Baltimore riots 2015. (Photo courtesy Baltimore Police Department)

Consequently, they need to boldly speak up! . . . A few are, and we are proud of them, but many are not.

Whatever forces stand in their way should be dealt with legally, professionally, and swiftly. Otherwise, they’ll be looking up at the axles of a truck as they get run over.

Public Demand

Law Enforcement Today contributor Leonard Sipes articulated the following details in his article, “What Happens When We Run out of Cops?”

People in high crime communities complain that police are overzealous regarding incessant stops. But proactive policing was debated and thoroughly examined by everyone including the media over the course of decades. 

It’s not as if cops decided to do this on their own. Why would they? Every stop means greater danger and unwanted public entanglements. Why would anyone risk their lives or sanity needlessly?

Officers were ordered to do this by affected communities, mayors, city councils, and governors. It wasn’t a secret.

Vast crime reductions in New York City (referred to as the New York City miracle) and elsewhere were attributed to proactive law enforcement efforts. The media reported on the numbers of arrests and resulting jail overcrowding. Everyone knew what was going on and why.

Spike in Chicago Homicides

The 2016 Chicago homicide spike was blamed on police backing off, similar to causation factors leading to elevated homicide rates in Baltimore.

Paul Cassell chronicled his analysis of the problem:

As the Chicago Tribune reported this morning, University of Utah Economics Professor Richard Fowles and I have just completed an important article on the 2016 Chicago homicide spike. Through multiple regression analysis and other tools, we conclude that an ACLU consent decree trigged a sharp reduction in stop and frisks by the Chicago Police Department, which in turn caused homicides to spike. Sadly, what Chicago police officers dubbed the “ACLU effect” was real—and more homicides and shootings were the consequence.

Assertive Police Work

While I maintain proactive policing is best for a community and the law enforcement organization charged with maintaining order, it should never be confused with cops who act like jackasses.

All it takes is one bonehead to brand everyone wearing a badge with the “J.A.” logo.

Let’s appropriately deal with officers wearing a dunce cap so the rest of us do not have to carry their baggage.

Is Proactive Policing Dead?

Thank goodness it (proactive policing) is still alive and well in a few locations. Yet the numbers are rapidly dwindling. Sadly, it has been mortally wounded in far too many places that desperately need to regain control of their streets. I.e. Chicago and Baltimore among others.

I received the following message from an officer in a major city. It was included in correspondence drafted by his very own police association:

[T]here is very little room for mistakes. Proactive policing is not supported and if you find yourself in something other than a textbook scenario, then it can end your career. My advice is for you to answer your 911 calls and use proactive policing at your own risk.

Many readers recognize a facsimile of these words, because they have become a common admonition to modern day sheepdogs.

modern day sheepdogs

If Proactive Policing Is Dead . . .

  • Fear is the prevailing emotion.
  • When fear is present, hesitation is sure to follow.
  • Hesitation leads to good people getting hurt . . . cops and citizens.
  • The crime problems plaguing inner-city America will spread like wildfire.
  • Public safety is compromised so everyone, particularly those less able, can live securely in their homes and neighborhoods.
  • Law enforcement as an institution will become less competent. (If we ignore the small things we will be ill equipped to handle bigger problems.)

Cops Are Fed Up

Fear and frustration is sending cops to the exits. LET recently reported that NYPD police officers were leaving in record numbers.

“That’s going to be a brain drain on the department, the experience we have on the street is now leaving,” said their PBA President Pat Lynch.

Holy Crap

NYPD motor officers. (Photo courtesy Juan Beltran)

“Departments are struggling to find not only interested, but interested and qualified, candidates to join the force,” said Jim Burch, vice president of the Police Foundation. “With everything happening around policing from salary to criticism, the question many people are asking is ‘is it worth it?’”

Getting Burned

Dustin Hammit resigned from the Austin Police Department a short time ago. He wrote a fantastic piece voicing his frustration with the system. In his work he talked about “getting burned.”

But after a while, it does just become just a job. After a while, the rookie stars fade from your eyes. You get burned by suspects. You get burned by the people you are trying to help. You get burned by the criminal justice system. You get burned by your department. You get burned by the politicians in the DA’s office and on the City Council. Wanna know why cops are cynical? It is because they’ve been burned. A lot. By everyone.


We need to make sure officers don’t feel like they’re “getting burned” for doing their job!

I will be accused of over simplifying a multifaceted problem, but it’s all about leadership!

spiteful leader

(Graphics by Jim McNeff)

Cops in the trenches will not go out on a limb for leaders who fail to support their lawful actions. Chiefs, sheriffs and mayors need to understand the risk/reward in this requisite style of policing—if they want safer communities. If not, invest in the flower industry because Americans will visit more gravesites.

Will our nation regain the political fortitude to stand up to criminal bullies and their aggressive political advocates? I don’t know. For now, the people demonstrating courage are being mislabeled as racists and bigots.

Nonsense in Minnesota and California

At a time when the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the complexities, and in essence defended police officers involved in critical incidents, the naysayers are many.

supreme court unanimously lifts

Amazingly, authority figures in Minnesota and California have actually engaged in conversations about disarming police and/or raising the threshold when officers may engage in lethal force.

So even though police officers generally arrest 10-11 million people annually, and do so overwhelmingly without harming suspects, when the perpetrator initiates violence and resistance, the blame for injuries and death is always placed at the doorstep of law enforcement.

Oh yes, the public mourns with us when an officer is killed in the line of duty, but many of the same “mourners” line up to excoriate the officer chasing a likely burglary suspect through dark areas and then opens fire when he mistakenly identifies a cell phone as a small caliber handgun.

It’s sad and tragic, but the officer’s actions were precipitated by criminal conduct on the part of the decedent. Isn’t accountability a two-way street?

Why is this quickly cast aside during public debates? As a result, crooks gaining status as martyrs are trending up . . . and their families are being enriched due to lawsuits.

Ironic Twist

So, in a twist of irony, the arguments and demands of civil libertarians fearing that minorities are dying at the hands of law enforcement will lead to the unintended consequences like Chicago and Baltimore. Cops will back off and more people will die.

The current criminal and civil justice systems in place are fully capable of handling police misconduct and negligence. But the dialogue missing from our “public conversation” is accountability on the part perpetrators and suspects whose actions are the ultimate cause of their demise.

Consequently, proactive policing appears to be dead in America. Can someone please tell me I’m wrong?

– Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today