The epidemic of police brutality and officer-perpetrated extrajudicial killings in the United States should be a motivator for a national discussion on the conduct of our police officers and the increasing militarization of local law enforcement forces. Instead, the right-wing has gone on the defensive, attempting to rewrite the narrative as evidence of an imaginary “war on cops” spearheaded by President Obama and BlackLivesMatter groups.
The FBI, however, has just released important data that flies in the face of this vile smear campaign. The number of police officers killed in the line of duty sharply declined last year. Forty-one officers died on the job, down from fifty-one the previous year – a 20% drop. Notably, 38 of last years killings were done with firearms – and the vast majority of them took place in Republican southern states. An additional 45 officers were killed in line-of-duty accidents last year, the same as the year before – which would indicate that internal safety procedures need to be reformed, since the losses from “accidents” overtook those killed by criminals.
On the other hand, 965 American citizens were summarily executed by law enforcement officers last year. 512 have been killed so far this year, according to the Washington Post. The vast disproportion of these two statistics prove that the right-wing’s attempts to smear and discredit a movement working to address institutional racism and the overzealous use of violence by law enforcement are nothing but efforts to silence the healthy dissent and entrench the status quo. It should be a drastic wake-up call for our nation when you realize that it is safer to be a cop than it is to be a preschooler.
President Obama has worked hard to strike a balance between the narratives – for which he of course receives no credit – unilaterally supporting our police officers, the vast majority of whom are selfless public servants who do protect and serve their communities, while acknowledging that reform and reassessment of police behavior is drastically needed: “I just want to repeat, because somehow this never gets on the TV: There is no contradiction between us caring about our law enforcement officers and also making sure that our laws are applied fairly. We want to protect our police officers. We’ll do a better job doing it if our communities can feel confident that they are being treated fairly. I hope I’m making that clear.”
The most infuriating part of the right-wing’s response is their utter refusal to yield one inch, to even consider the possibility that their position might be in need of some contemplation and reflection. Such a blind devotion to ideological orthodoxy is evident in everything the conservative moment says or does, and is a primary contributor to not only the obstructionist gridlock in Congress but the polarization of the nation at large. Until the right-wing comes to its sense and begins to approach issues from a reasonable mindset, they do not deserve a spot at the table or a mandate of governance.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.