What you’re in trouble who are you going to call? More and more people are saying, “Not the police.”
After news broke that a group of Milwaukee police officers savagely beat an unarmed black man named Frank Jude in 2004, the city saw crime-related 911 calls drop by about 20 percent for more than a year—totaling about 22,200 lost reports of crimes—according to a new study by a group of sociologists at Harvard, Yale, and Oxford universities.
The outcome wasn’t unique to Jude’s beating, the researchers found. Looking at the city’s 911 call-records from 2004 to 2010, they noted similar drops after other highly publicized local and national cases of police violence against unarmed black men.
The findings square with earlier research showing that communities—specifically black communities given recent events—become more cynical of law enforcement after brutality cases. But the new study, published in the October issue of the American Sociological Review, is the first to show that people actually change their behavior based on that elevated distrust. Namely, community members become less likely to report crimes to law enforcement, likely out of fear of interacting with police or skepticism that police will take them seriously and help.
This is the inevitable result of having unaccountable law enforcers. Instead of seeing law enforcers as protectors of the community people are beginning to see them as risks. And they’re right. Unaccountable law enforcers are risks because any profession that lacks accountability tends to attract unsavory individuals. People who want to enjoy having power over others are attracted to careers that allow them to indulge their desire. Law enforcement today is the product of a vicious cycle where a lack of accountability has attracted unsavory individuals and a glut of unsavory individuals in law enforcement agencies has discouraged increasing accountability.
We see this distrust every day in little ways. Companies hiring private security personnel instead of relying on the police. People being afraid to call 911 when somebody breaks into their home. Widespread protests whenever a police officer uses deadly force. All of these are signs that public trust in law enforcement has degraded.
What’s especially ironic is that the cop apologists, who claim to be aligned with law enforcers, are just making this divide worse. By automatically siding with police officers in every use of force situation the tough on crime crowd has been feeding the populace’s fear that law enforcers are generally unaccountable, which further erodes their trust in the police. If the tough on crime crowd really wanted to help the police that too would be demanding more accountability because that is the only way to rebuild trust between the people and law enforcers. But they’re too stupid to realize that their devout worship is actually detrimental to police so they are actually unwitting wrenches in the great law enforcement machinery.