Last weekend some individuals weighed in on police shootings in Louisiana, contrasting events of this year in Baton Rouge with the high-profile shooting death of Alton Sterling, collector of multiple arrests over the previous two decades. A federal investigation will render a judgment in the next several months on the appropriateness of police actions concerning that incident.
These same individuals represent organizations that have brought suit against Baton Rouge police for their handling of protests against the Sterling shooting, which they allege involved too much use of force that denied free speech rights. They made remarks at the Louisiana Green Party convention contrasting the relative hands-off approach they perceive practiced by New Orleans police, noting no such excessive force complaints against NOPD so far in 2016.
Naturally enough, these know-nothings come from the same school of thought that exacerbated the Baltimore riots of last year, when police stood down initially after protesters began to act violently in the wake of a police shooting (the officers involved recently exonerated of any wrongdoing). Because police conceded the field of play to those embracing grievance, they allowed momentum to build into full-scale rioting.
And if taken at their word that more restrained policing tactics mark the NOPD compared to law enforcement in Baton Rouge, the data disprove the efficacy of that strategy. Given the latest data (2014) available, while East Baton Rouge Parish’s crime statistics don’t give much to write home about, ranking 23rd worst among all jurisdictions reporting nationally with a murder rate of 14.2 per 100,000 residents and also 564.7 per 100,000 violent crimes, Orleans Parish ranked 2nd worst with a murder rate of 40.71 and also a violent crime rate of 1,023.1. Of course, actual police restraint in enforcement comprises just one of many factors influencing these rates, but standing alone this suggests that laxer enforcement comparatively speaking encourages violent criminal activity.
Moreover, organizations part of the suit such as the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and Black Youth Project 100 with speakers at the panel bear some culpability in creating an atmosphere that attracted a disturbed individual with acrimony against police who targeted law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge and shot six, killing three, only days after the groups filing publicized the suit. Publicizing the suit then and taking to a public forum now with insinuations that Baton Rouge police systematically and purposely abuse citizens’ rights shows reckless irresponsibility. Even if the charges had any truth behind them, complainers should have taken a less confrontational approach that refrains from throwing more fuel on the fire that could repeat tragedy.
But with these people we must remember it’s the ideology that matters, not what’s right. Authorities must get to the bottom of any police misconduct and punish it. Yet the relatively hands-off strategy recommended by these groups from the belief that otherwise too much misconduct occurs shows a fundamental misreading of reality that likely would bring more costs than benefits.