The village of Mount Prospect, Ill., prohibited its police officers earlier this month from wearing a “thin blue line” patch on their uniforms. The patch consists of a black-and-white U.S. flag with one blue stripe. It honors fallen cops and recognizes the role police play in protecting society from anarchy. Detractors insist the symbol makes people of color feel unsafe. Police chiefs and elected officials in San Francisco, Middletown and Manchester, Conn., and elsewhere have banned it.
While Mount Prospect was grappling with threatening police patches, in nearby Chicago the police were dealing with actual violence—against officers and civilians. Three days before the anti-patch vote, Officer Ella French was killed by a bullet to her head during a traffic stop. French and her two partners had pulled over an SUV for expired registration tags. One of the SUV’s occupants, 21-year-old Emonte Morgan, allegedly fought with the officers and opened fire, killing French and critically wounding one of her partners with bullets to the brain, eye and shoulder. Mr. Morgan was on probation for a recent robbery conviction, which a Chicago Tribune story characterizes as not a “serious” crime. His brother Eric, who was driving the SUV, was on probation for a theft conviction.
French and her partner were among the 78 people shot in Chicago over the Aug. 7-8 weekend, 11 of them fatally. Typical of the post- George Floyd urban mayhem, a child—this time a 4-year-old girl—was among the victims. Over Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, a 5-year-old girl, a 6-year-old girl, a 12-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were shot, along with 104 others. On July 1, a 1-month-old infant was critically wounded in a mass shooting. Three young men emerged from a Jeep Cherokee spraying bullets in several directions. A 15-year-old and six other victims were also shot, along with the baby. Hours earlier, a 9-year-old girl was shot in the head.
Chicago is no outlier. In Minneapolis, six children 10 and younger have been shot since late April, including two girls, 6 and 9, who were killed; two boys, 10 and 3, both critically wounded; and an infant. None of these Minneapolis children were shot by a cop; they were killed by criminals who, like them, are black.
In Chicago among the four victims of fatal police shootings in 2021, there was one juvenile, 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who had a gun, ran from officers responding to a shots-fired call, and refused to comply with orders. Toledo dropped the gun behind a fence before wheeling around on the officer who shot him. Police bodycam footage doesn’t make clear whether the officer would have seen, much less been able to process, whether Toledo still had the gun in his hand.
Police officers aren’t making minority neighborhoods unsafe; criminals are. The four victims of fatal police shootings in Chicago in 2021, all armed, are 0.7% of the 538 homicide victims year to date. Blacks make up 83% of all homicide offenders in Chicago whose race is known and 83% of all homicide victims, though they constitute less than 30% of the city’s population.
Last year police officers nationally killed 18 “unarmed” blacks, according to the Washington Post, a category that includes suspects grabbing an officer’s gun or fleeing in a stolen car with a loaded pistol on the car seat. Assuming, as a highly conservative estimate, 8,300 black homicide victims in 2020 (the toll will likely be over 10,000), those 18 unarmed blacks would make up 0.2% of all black homicide victims. The vast majority of the rest will have been killed by black criminals.
The claim, amplified at the highest reaches of government, that the police are hunting down and killing black civilians has resulted in an outpouring of bile against law enforcement. Ambush assaults against officers rose 91% in the year after George Floyd’s death. More officers have been feloniously killed so far in 2021—50, as of Aug. 18—than in all of 2020, 2019 and 2017. Suspect resistance is up, which will increase the chance of officer use of lethal force. On Aug. 13, a Chicago police officer was seriously wounded while being dragged by a car fleeing a car stop.
Many police departments and prosecutors’ offices are throwing in the towel to avoid the inevitable disparate impact of law enforcement and the resulting charge of racism. This month Minneapolis became the latest city to prohibit its police officers from making certain car stops, even though residents of high-crime neighborhoods beg for more traffic enforcement. The police chief who issued the order need hardly have bothered. The numbers of traffic and pedestrian stops in Minneapolis (and elsewhere) have plummeted since George Floyd’s death as officers back away from proactive policing.
The results speak for themselves. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation publishes its 2020 crime report later this year, it will likely show the largest percentage increase in homicide in recorded history, followed by an even higher death toll in 2021. Looters across the country are stripping stores with impunity; some chains are closing outlets rather than be accused of bias should they apprehend shoplifters.
Whether police are allowed to wear the thin-blue-line icon or not, the idea that they are the only thing standing between order and chaos is borne out daily.
Ms. Mac Donald is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.”