By now, it’s a ritual of contemporary American life — a police-involved shooting followed by a riot.
Police in Brooklyn Center, Minn., shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop last weekend, leading to a violent siege of the police headquarters and looting of local businesses.
This dynamic is now widely accepted as the norm. Any officer-involved shooting — no matter how justified or illicit, whether we know everything about the circumstances or nothing at all — is simply assumed to be the occasion for mayhem.
This reflex toward disorder has contributed to a nightmarish spiral in much of urban America, which is experiencing a historic surge in murders.
Brooklyn Center is especially fraught, because it is a suburb just outside Minneapolis, the city devastated by riots in the wake of the death of George Floyd last year — and on edge during the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the cop charged with killing him.
Videos of controversial shootings can be misleading, but the body-camera footage from Brooklyn Center seems clear enough. The cops are hand-cuffing Daunte Wright outside the driver-side door, when he begins to struggle and gets back into the car. As he is starting to drive away, an officer yells, “Taser!” before shooting him with her pistol — and expressing disbelief that she had just shot him instead of tasing him.
This is a mind-boggling and horrifying mistake that should lead to all sorts of questions about how officers are trained in the locality. But it doesn’t justify trashing a Foot Locker or O’Reilly’s store, among other business establishments, or throwing projectiles at the cops.
The God-awful shooting doesn’t support the dominant narrative of racist police hunting down young black men. The cop’s tone, after she realizes what she has done, is one of instant remorse.
Not that the facts matter much in these cases. The violence and looting began in Brooklyn Center before anyone knew with any specificity what had happened.
These spasms of destruction are not, as their apologists maintain, relatively cost-free acts. Every indication is that lawlessness begets more lawlessness, hurting the very people that purveyors of anti-police outrage say they want to help and protect. Yet blue politicians continue to irresponsibly fan the flames, as Minnesota Gov. Tim Waltz did with a tweet, making statements that assume racist malice on the cops’ part.
Crime was already increasing in Minneapolis last year, perhaps because of the pandemic, but took off after the death of Floyd and subsequent riots.
The city saw its most murders since 1995, when it was nicknamed “Murderapolis.” In its wisdom, the uber-progressive city council there cut funding for the police, even as the force was depleted by retirements.
Not surprisingly, according to The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the rise in violent crime hit poor neighborhoods hardest.
A new study released on the Social Science Research network examined cities with Black Lives Matter protests from 2014 to 2019 and found that lethal use of force by cops declined enough to account for roughly 300 fewer deaths. On the other hand, the study found a 10 percent increase in homicides, resulting in 1,000 to 6,000 more deaths.
If this is accurate, is there anyone who is comfortable with this blood-soaked trade, which reduces police killings at the cost of, at the very least, hundreds and perhaps thousands of additional murders of young African-American men?
The study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, although its findings are broadly consistent with the experience of cities like Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore. It doesn’t include last year’s nationwide unrest that coincided with an increase in murders nationally of 30 percent.
There must be a better way. It would start by not smearing the police as such after every shooting. It would include the strongest possible condemnation of any violence in the streets, rather than the muddled, euphemistic practice of referring to protests that descend into riots and looting as “largely peaceful.” It would acknowledge the absolute necessity of robust policing to protect the most violence-plagued neighborhoods.