Forget Jan. 6 – it’s time to demand a “congressional hearing” over the “defund the police” movement

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Highlights

Violent crime is exploding. Cops leaving and arrests plummeting may set off a wave of dangerousness that impacts cities and counties far beyond urban areas.

The damage happening to cities due to violent crime far exceeds what happened during the Capitol Hill riot.

Let’s give cops the forum they deserve via Congressional testimony before more quit and violence increases.

All cops (especially big city officers) need an opportunity to tell the nation and world what’s happening and what needs to be done.

Author

Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Retired federal senior spokesperson. Thirty-five years of directing award-winning public relations for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Former Adjunct Associate Professor of criminology and public affairs-University of Maryland, University College. Former advisor to presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. Former advisor to the “McGruff-Take a Bite Out of Crime” national media campaign. Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University. Former police officer. Aspiring drummer.

Opinion

Being a cop has consequences.

I was involved in my first decapitation at an accident scene. An elderly husband and wife pulled in front of a tractor-trailer after leaving a bar. I had to crawl over her headless body so we could get to her dying husband. He died at the scene.

I saw multiple people die. I held their hands as they passed. I went to domestic violence calls and witnessed a woman badly beaten with a frying pan. I nearly shot someone reaching for a gun during a traffic stop (it was a harmless starter pistol used for track meets).

I was a 6-3, 200-pound cop assisted by other officers who made me look small trying to arrest a person high on PCP. The fighting was endless. We were all injured.

I could go on endlessly about the dangers of being a police officer which is why the never-ceasing negative media coverage causes me pain. The officers I worked with were decent people who never abused anyone. They simply wanted to do their jobs and go home to their families after their shift.

The Congressional Riot Hearings

I watched as Capitol Hill police officers testified as to what they had to endure.

“The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is holding its first hearing Tuesday, with testimony from four law enforcement officers who defended the building that day. Officers were severely outnumbered, and CBS News has reported that, in total, more than 150 officers were injured during the attack.

The impact persists: Months after the attack, at least 17 police officers remained out of work with injuries sustained on January 6, and some have described ongoing psychological trauma. Two officers died after the assault,” CBS News.

The Capitol Hill officers were essentially untrained and woefully outnumbered. They deserved an opportunity to tell their stories.

But What About All Cops?

Quite frankly, with all due respect to the officers protecting the Capitol on January 6, what they went through doesn’t begin to compare with what police officers throughout America experience daily. I did a short assignment with the Sergeant At Arms for the US Senate. I can say with assurance that the job of the average cop is far more dangerous than those of the United States Capitol Police.

Since 2015 and the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson regarding police use of force (which was concurrent with the beginning of a dramatic national rise in crime), police officers have been subject to an enormous increase in negative articles and media reports.

Yes, some of the negativity was deserved.

But media sources seemed determined to outdo their counterparts in proclaiming that one million cops were racist, brutal thugs not worthy of the public’s consideration. I have repeatably said that if you are willing to stereotype one million people (including civilians), you are capable of any “ism.”

Every day I read about the issues people in high crime areas suffer through because of violence. Fear, anxiety, brain damage, PTSD, poor school performance, major medical problems, mental health and substance abuse are all common characteristics, National Institute Of Justice.

Please tell me, why don’t police officers, who deal with these issues intimately daily, don’t suffer from the same conditions?

Oh, wait a minute, they do.

Crime

From 2015 to 2018, (well before COVID) the total number of violent victimizations increased by 28%. The rate of total violent victimizations also increased. The number of violent incidents increased from 5.2 million in 2017 to 6.0 million in 2018, Violent Crime Increases. There is additional data stating that violent crime is becoming more serious in nature.

Per FBI preliminary statistics for all of 2020, there was a 25 percent increase in homicides, overall violent crime increased by 3.3 percent, and aggravated assaults increased by 10.5 percent, Violent Crime Increases in 2020.

Major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year as a pandemic swept across the country, millions of people joined protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsed under the weight of the pandemic — a crime surge that has continued into the first quarter of this year, Rising Urban Homicides-CNN.

Fear of crime is at its highest level in years. Firearm and security sales are skyrocketing. Per media accounts, people are leaving cities.

Early indications for 2021 suggest that violence continues to grow.

The focus of violent crime increases seems to be concentrated in American cities, US Crime Rates.

Police Contacts Down

Police-initiated contacts in many cities are down by huge numbers, Proactive Contacts. Arrests are also down considerably, Arrests. Is the immense negativity thrown at cops causing them to pull back?

Per Pew, 72% say officers in their department are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons. Overall, more than eight in ten (86%) say police work is harder today as a result of high-profile, negative incidents.

About nine in ten officers (93%) say their colleagues worry more about their personal safety – a level of concern recorded even before a total of eight officers died in separate ambush-style attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Cops Holding Back?

Mental Health

The data on police PTSD, suicides, drug and alcohol use and general stress is well documented, see Police Stress. Is policing becoming too hard, too emotionally draining? Is that why recruitment and retention are problems?

Does Policing Change You?

There are endless references as to how being a cop changes your personality. “How many domestic violence calls can you handle? How many people shot? How much blood? How many abused children? How much violence can you process?” Impacts of Law Enforcement.

While the law enforcement community faces incredible challenges, they are also mourning the loss of colleagues, as officer fatalities rose significantly due to crime and COVID-19. In 2020, we lost 394 officers. Thousands more are injured.

Cops Leaving

The rate of full-time police officers decreased by 11 percent from 1997 to 2016, Declining Cops.  Recruitment is down 63 percent. There are endless stories about cops leaving the job. Data from the Police Executive Research Forum confirms the numbers.

Proactivity (i.e., aggressive policing), police contacts in urban areas, and arrests are all down, Cops Leaving.

Police budgets have taken a beating.

Conclusions

If we have Capitol Hill hearings for the officers involved in the January 6 riot, then let’s have Congressional hearings for all cops and what they are currently going through.

Let’s investigate the endlessly negative media coverage and reasons that so many officers are leaving the job. Let’s look at the explosion in violent crime and how they are responding to it.

I remember watching police officers in Baltimore trying to make an arrest for a felony violent crime being surrounded by multiple residents filming the event as they hurled insults and threats towards the officers involved. Baltimore City today is rated as one of the world’s most dangerous cities, Most Dangerous Cities.

As The New York Post reported over the weekend, self-described police “auditors” are trying to harass cops into hostile confrontations, to film the encounter and reap cash rewards from their anti-cop YouTube followers and from public coffers.

I have news for everyone, cops using proactive policing may be the only modality with a research base that actually reduces crime.

More news, cops leaving, and arrests plummeting may set off a wave of dangerousness that impacts cities and counties far beyond core urban areas.

So let’s give cops the forum they deserve via Congressional testimony before more of them quit and we are suddenly on our own.

Think I’m overplaying my hand? Fear of crime is at an all-time high. Firearm and security sales are going through the roof. People are leaving cities.

All cops, but especially big city officers, need an opportunity to tell the nation and world what’s happening from their perspective.

Every cop in America knows we have to improve. We all acknowledge the history of abuses. We all need to rededicate ourselves to equal treatment.

But few in America understand what’s going on as to cops and reducing violence.

Let’s give them the chance to tell their story before it’s too late.


My book based on thirty-five years of criminal justice public relations,” Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon

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