A cop debunks four core myths of the #DefundPolice movement

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As a progressive who wants to decriminalize drugs and advance the welfare state, I fit in well in my Pacific Northwest community. Except, that is, for my job: I’ve been a big-city cop here for 26 years. Before that, I served in the military. The raging #DefundthePolice movement doesn’t know me and my colleagues at all — and persistent myths about police and their critics do more harm than good.

Four myths especially deserve debunking by an officer who knows.

1) Police are killing large numbers of civilians. That’s simply not true. In New York City, the police department has meticulously tracked every shot fired by its officers since 1971. These officers represent roughly 5 percent of the entire American force, so it’s a large sample. The NYPD’s annual report shows a dramatic, sustained drop in killings by police — from 93 in 1971 to just five in 2018. 

The reality is that US policing has steadily improved over the past 50 years. In Gotham, officers firing a gun have gone from a daily to monthly occurrence. And the city has become dramatically safer over the same period. 

In other words, the NYPD has successfully used less lethal means of preserving — and improving — the rule of law.

2) The anti-cop movement is largely peaceful. Again, false. The movement, rather, is akin to the Batman villain Two-Face. Anyone who watched the protests on television would know that the daytime ones were lawful free speech. But the dynamic changed dramatically at night. Protests became intentional ­riots, designed to draw a police response that allowed rioters to claim victim status.

They would begin with insults, shouted at the riot line for hours in the hope that exhausted officers would retort on video; some told officers to commit ­suicide. Then they would throw rocks, shine bright lasers in our eyes and throw fireworks and Molotov cocktails — forcing the police to respond.

Yet the mainstream media adopted the comically false “peaceful-protest” narrative and perpetuated the myth of pervasive police brutality. For activists, it was a successful propaganda operation, encouraging the police to engage with force, then driving the narrative that law enforcement “overreacted” to latter-day Gandhis. 

3) Abolishing police wouldn’t lead to lawlessness. Many of the defunders are genuine anarchists, who want no government at all and believe in a society of angels who serve each other voluntarily.

This is nonsense. One of the greatest achievements in human history was creating government monopolies on the use of force. Ancient tribal societies had a violent death rate of 500 per 100,000 people per year. That number dropped to 50 in medieval societies and just one to five in the modern West.

Seattle’s recent experiment with the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, proves this. Police weren’t allowed in the “occupied” protest zone for three weeks. It immediately became a hellscape and led to the shooting deaths of two young black men — the very people the movement claims to want to protect from the police.

4) Today’s police are “militarized.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. As a soldier, I rode in an armored vehicle and sat in a turret with a belt-fed machine gun. My job was to shoot enemy soldiers. In my 26 years as a cop, I have done no such thing.

Contrary to activist complaints, SWAT teams’ armored vehicles, armored clothing and special training help them avoid deadly force, not commit it. A regular cop is often justified shooting someone who threateningly brandishes a gun. A SWAT officer wearing protection, however, will wait longer before resorting to deadly force. In Seattle, our SWAT team recently saved a suicidal young black man with a gun.

Here’s the reality. We need police on the streets. Every day, cops arrest violent felons in the act. Even in a low-crime city like Seattle, robbery crews are constantly at work. A woman was recently slaughtered in front of her young son at the grocery store where my daughters and I shop for food. Her crime: chasing the man who stole her purse.

Social-justice warriors say that policing is hopelessly broken, and the only solution is “defund, disarm and disband.” Take it from a left-leaning cop: Those arguments are either wildly exaggerated or just plain false.

Christopher Young is a Seattle police officer and detective in the city’s criminal-intelligence team.

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