Heather MacDonald, who is based at the Manhattan Institute, has a new book out titled, The War on Cops. Is there a war? John Stossel notes that the “war on cops” narrative is overblown: “‘War’ means killing. The attack on officers in Dallas was despicable, but, even including those five deaths, it is still safer to be a cop today than in years past. According to FBI records, 2015 was one of the safest years ever recorded.”
MacDonald seems to recognize that. Her primary aim is to push back against the critics of the criminal justice system. She says we need more proactive policing and stricter incarceration practices to protect our cities from what she calls “mass destruction.” I have a review of the book over at Reason and outline several problems with MacDonald’s thesis.
Here’s an excerpt:
In 2013, a federal district court ruled that the NYPD’s [stop & frisk] tactics were unconstitutional. The court noted that cops were evaluated by their “productivity”—that is, finding contraband and making arrests. Officers were not disciplined for stops that turned up nothing, and innocent persons had no practical legal recourse for brief detentions and patdowns of their clothing. Thus, the police had job pressures to stop a lot of people, suspicious or not, to see what might turn up. That helps to explain why, of the 4.4 million police stops between January 2004 and June 2012, there was no further action taken, such as an arrest or summons, in a whopping 88 percent. Mac Donald does not address these points.
That 88 percent might actually be an underestimate, because the police do not necessarily file the proper paperwork where a questionable stop turns up nothing. Recall that when NYPD officers roughed up former tennis pro James Blake last year in a case of mistaken identity, they did not report the encounter. As far as police records showed, it never happened. Fortuitously, the incident was captured by a hotel security camera and Blake’s wife urged him not to drop the matter, arguing that it would highlight a type of abuse that black men had been complaining about.