Presidential Press Secretary Josh Earnest recently referred to so-called “de-policing” as a result of the “Ferguson effect,” as suggested by F.B.I. Director William Comey, in a subjectively negative manner. Earnest said, “The evidence we’ve seen so far doesn’t support the contention that law enforcement officials are somehow shirking their responsibility, and in fact you’ve seen law enforcement leaders across the country indicating that’s not what’s taking place.”
Well, there’s your first problem, Josh. Your asking law enforcement leaders and not real cops.
De-policing is taking place. I’ve seen it first hand. I was a victim of it. However, Earnest said he doesn’t believe officers are engaged in some sort of “de-policing” with officers “shirking their responsibility.” This shows that not only is Josh wrong about the phenomenon occurring in law enforcement today, he’s wrong about what de-policing is. Still, the White House has to hold to this position, because to concede it would make it much more difficult to continue to support cop-hating organizations such as Black Lives Matter.
De-policing is not about police officers shirking their responsibilities; de-policing is about communities shirking their responsibilities to their police officers.
Just like any other occupation, in law enforcement there are ways to get by and ways to excel. Each employee chooses one of these paths, or some combination, or they lose their jobs—or they should. Employers prefer employees who pursue excellence but they can appreciate a worker who does what the job asks, neither excelling nor falling below the minimum required.
Most police officers want to excel. Law enforcement is that kind of profession. The vast majority of people enter the profession more as a calling than as merely a job. When political environments make it so an officer is not allowed to excel (such as the current atmosphere Director Comey describes) many officers must devolve from excellent to adequate as a means of self-preservation.
Officers affected by de-policing will prudently limit their self-initiated police tasks such as traffic stops, other infractions (such as jaywalking, littering, etc.) and stopping suspicious persons. But this does not mean the officer does not respond to 911 calls for service. They also don’t ignore people flagging them down for emergency situations. In the vast majority of incidents, if you call 911, a cop will come to help you.
Cops are out there performing heroically every day. Traditionally, many have called American law enforcement a thankless profession. In my experience, most times it is and sometimes it isn’t. Today, officers would be happy if law enforcement rose back to the level of thankless. Cops can learn to do their jobs without the thanks but just let them do their jobs.