Will National Crime Rise Because Of Memphis Police Reactions? The intense criticism of American law enforcement (thus all cops) results in dramatically fewer police recruits and thousands of officers leaving. Recent USDOJ data showing police restraint and polls showing strong public trust are being ignored by the media.
The following article has been written by Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr. It includes editorial content which is the opinion of the writer.
Stereotyping all cops may have an immense impact on police reform, crime control, fear of crime, and citizens wanting more police.
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.
Author of ”Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization” available at Amazon and additional booksellers.
I watched congressional leaders Sunday morning stating that we need high-quality, extremely well-trained and paid police officers as the heart and soul of reform. So stipulated. No disagreement.
But how are we going to do that when few want to be cops? Recruitment is down dramatically per the Police Executive Research Forum and we are losing thousands of current police officers.
There’s no argument among those in law enforcement that the five officers initially charged in Memphis were legally, morally, and fundamentally wrong. But some suggest that Memphis lowered hiring standards because they were down 500 officers.
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A key issue is people leaving or not entering policing. If few want to be or remain cops, what does that mean for reform efforts? How can you reform if there are not enough officers to engage in basic police services?
If Memphis has a reformer chief and all recommended de-escalation policies were in place, what does that say about meaningful or effective change? The US Department of Justice is enforcing 17 agreements with law enforcement agencies, including 13 consent decrees, and one post-judgment order. Will Memphis cause a reevaluation of USDOJ policies?
Finally, if we are losing a ton of cops, it may have an impact on crime control per statistics on arrests, searches, and stops.
All issues cited above are ignored in the current media discussion.
The Stereotyping Of A Million Police Employees
Law enforcement has an ongoing debate about whether officers should stay or go. I interviewed multiple cops who feel that the American public has turned their backs on the profession because of immense negative publicity. Because of the perception of media unfairness, family members are telling their police loved ones to get out, and to get out now.
Since 2014, there has been an array of use-of-force incidents that caused shifts in American public opinion of law enforcement. In some of those events, police officers were blatantly wrong and in some cases, criminally so. In these cases, the negative media coverage was justified.
What cops and their families object to is the stereotyping of well over a million police employees based on the actions of a few. Shall we condemn women or people of color or anyone else based on the actions of a few? At what point do critics become bigots? If you’re capable of judging the majority based on the actions of a relatively small number of people, then are you capable of any “ism?”
There is no data suggesting that the percentage of cops doing something wrong is excessive when compared to journalists (endless reporting mistakes and charges of bias) or religious leaders (numerous charges of sexual abuse) or business people (multiple charges of fraud) or the medical profession (endless data on mistakes). There’s no national call for reforming the entities mentioned. Yet the national media coverage insinuates that there is a problem with “American” policing (thus all cops). The attack on “all cops” is now a daily experience.
The Institutionalized Police Culture
“It’s part of the institutionalized police culture that makes it somehow allowed that they can use this type of excessive force and brutality against people of color,” Crump said. “And it doesn’t matter if the officers are Black, Hispanic, or white. It is part of the culture, this bias culture that said, ‘This is allowed.’
“The world is watching us,” Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said. “If there is any silver lining to be drawn from this very dark cloud, it’s that perhaps this incident can open a broader conversation about the need for police reform.” President Joe Biden joined national civil rights leaders in similar calls to action. I assume it will be a highlight in his upcoming State Of The Union speech.
There is recent data showing a national decrease in public opinion of American policing.
Yet every police academy demands fair and equal treatment for all. Every recruit takes an oath swearing that they will be unbiased per US and state constitutions. Recruits are routinely polygraphed and investigated for bias because attorneys demand it to protect agencies from lawsuits. Every academy openly discusses anti-bias issues and de-escalation.
So, if all cops are part of an “institutionalized police culture that makes it somehow allowed that they can use this type of excessive force,” what happened in Memphis as to reform?
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The Efficiency Of Police Reform
What happened in Memphis with the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five city police officers charged with second-degree murder (an additional white officer has been fired) is disgusting and heartbreaking.
To my knowledge, the five African American officers with an African American chief of police in a city with a majority of black police officers (58 percent) used all recommended de-escalation policies. Memphis complied with all recommendations regarding tactics that were supposed to reduce or eliminate unjustifiable use of force.
We now have the African American female chief of police being questioned for allegedly protecting misconduct yet she appeared on numerous national television programs as a spokesperson for progressive police reform. Per USA Today, she may be in jeopardy.
So, what happened regarding the validity of modalities recommended by the US Department of Justice and endless experts as to ending or reducing unjustified use of force? They were all in place in Memphis. There is now a legitimate question about the remedies we use.
Multiple cities have been governed by court orders from the US Department of Justice to create meaningful police reform. Memphis emulated their recommendations.
Incidents like Memphis create a wide array of questions and concerns that can (and probably will) have multiple impacts:
Cops Leaving: Thousands of police officers have left the profession per the Bureau of Labor Statistics and endless media articles. Cities throughout the country are desperately trying to increase their numbers of police officers. They openly admit that they don’t have enough police officers to respond to calls and wait times are excessive.
“Data from NYC Police Pension Fund data obtained by Fox News Digital show 1,955 members on the force retired in 2022 and another 1,746 quit, meaning a total of 3,701 left the ranks last year alone. It’s the largest figure recorded in the last 20 years, even higher than in 2020 and 2021, when the massive amount of officers leaving the force dominated national headlines. There were a total of 2,811 NYPD members who quit or retired in 2021, and 3,315 in 2020.”
“Philadelphia and New Orleans showed similar problems. And in Baltimore, a judge warned last month that the police staffing crisis in the city is so dire that it can’t be “overstated.”
Recruits Have Questionable Backgrounds: The police recruitment problem is so acute that Memphis has been charged with recruiting people with questionable backgrounds. The same charge has been leveled in other cities. Memphis is down approximately 500 police officers. The UK seems to be having the same problem. There was a national scandal in D.C. as documented by the Washington Post when the lowering of standards for police recruits backfired.
Proactive Policing And Crime Control: The only modality with a proven track record of reducing crime is proactive policing based on hundreds of methodologically correct studies as provided by the US Department of Justice. No other crime control strategy comes close to the number and quality of the studies. Proactive policing means that police officers leave their vehicles to investigate suspicious behavior. This includes traffic stops. Proactive policing stops are dangerous and lead to numerous incidents where the use of force was employed.
There is no question that arrests have plummeted, especially since 2014. Proactivity has fallen. There’s been a 60 percent reduction in searches. There are endless references in media articles and reports that police no longer get out of their vehicles or they no longer patrol neighborhoods. As one union chief said, “if you don’t do anything, you can’t get into trouble.”
Urban Crime Increases: There’s no doubt that urban crime has increased considerably. Since 2019, homicides are up by 50 percent. Aggravated assaults are up 36 percent per the Major Cities Chiefs Association. The risk of violent street crimes rose by 40 percent.
So, if cops are leaving the job en masse and communities are complaining about rising violence and long wait times for a police response and if cops refuse to engage in proactive policing, what happens now?
The Collective Impact
There’s nothing holding police officers in place beyond community support. I have friends making six-figure plus salaries driving trucks or maintaining digital security systems or sales or other jobs not requiring a college degree. So what do you do, make an extraordinarily good salary at minimum risk, or join a police department for $40,000 while being stereotyped as “just another brutal cop?”
Cops will continue to leave by the tens of thousands. They will not engage in proactive policing. Violent crime in urban areas will continue to rise.
Violence problems in cities are correlated with low student test scores, massive fear, children with PTSD, and economies that are suffering. Without safe communities, businesses and jobs will go elsewhere.
It’s not an exaggeration that the future of cities depends on an adequate number of well-trained cops working in conjunction with communities.
There are numerous polls stating that, regardless of demographics, the great majority of citizens view law enforcement favorably.
Since the Memphis, we are once again seeing public opinion turn.
Before Memphis, the share of U.S. adults who say police are doing an excellent or good job in using the right amount of force in each situation increased 9 percentage points between 2020 and the January 2023 survey, from 35% to 44%. There were comparable increases in the shares of Americans who say police are doing a good job in treating racial and ethnic groups equally (8 points, from 34% to 42%) and in holding officers accountable when misconduct occurs (12 points, from 31% to 43%).
The Use Of Force
According to a third replicated study from the US Department of Justice, 88% reported that they were satisfied with the police response, with 93% saying they would be more or as likely to contact police again in the future.
Approximately 4% of residents experienced some type of police action during their most recent police-initiated or traffic accident-related contact, with 3% experiencing the threat or use of force. Overall use or threat of force (all encounters) or threat of force was two percent.
About 1% of U.S. residents experienced misconduct during their most recent contact with police. Yet the national discussion insists that there is a problem with the police use of force via all agencies and all cops.
The preponderance of additional data suggests that, regardless of demographics, most Americans want and trust cops.
But EVERY media article discussing police reform after Memphis ignored the data above. Why is that?
No one in the law enforcement community suggests that cops should not be held accountable for unethical or illegal actions.
Every cop understands that there are groups that have been brutalized by law enforcement in the past and have current issues regarding respect.
Everyone in the justice system knows that we must treat every American with restraint and dignity.
Anyone abusing African Americans or anyone else based on the color of their skin should be ostracized.
Yet the data shows that American policing uses force judiciously. Out of 54 million yearly contacts, use of force is used in two percent of encounters. Only one percent of those polled felt disrespected.
Numerous polls indicate that regardless of demographics, American cops are trusted and respected with differences based on age, race, and political affiliation.
There’s a disconnect between the data (we are supposed to be an evidence-based profession) and what happened in Memphis and elsewhere. If Memphis used every conceivable recommendation as offered by the US Department of justice and endless advocates, what happened? Some suggest that we are now reduced to hiring the unqualified or less qualified to fill positions.
The bottom line is that cops understand that policing is becoming an undoable profession that carries excessive risks of being assaulted (60,000), or killed (well over 300), substance abuse, suicides, PTSD, negative impacts on family life, and now, a perceived growing unsupportive public.
As a street cop in any major American city anywhere in the country, would you stay, or would you go?
See more articles on crime and justice at Crime in America.
Most Dangerous Cities/States/Countries at Most Dangerous Cities.
US Crime Rates at Nationwide Crime Rates.
National Offender Recidivism Rates at Offender Recidivism.
An Overview Of Data On Mental Health at Mental Health And Crime.
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