Policing Is Not Racist

I agree with James Comey, who put it this way:

I believe law enforcement overwhelmingly attracts people who want to do good for a living—people who risk their lives because they want to help other people. They don’t sign up to be cops in New York or Chicago or L.A. to help white people or black people or Hispanic people or Asian people. They sign up because they want to help all people. And they do some of the hardest, most dangerous policing to protect people of color.

(James Comey, Hard Truths: Law Enforcement and Race.)

Comey described the birth of the myth of racist policing as follows.  Many police officers work in places where a huge proportion of street crime is committed by people of color.  These officers learn from those experiences and begin to be more suspicious of people of color than similarly situated white people.  Comey, and others, have defended this behavior as “maybe even rational.”  For example, New York City is 25% black.  Yet blacks were the victims of 55% of the city’s murders and 61% of the suspects, according to the NYPD.  Others cite even more disturbing statistics.

I think this may be the birth of things like bias and racial profiling.  And certainly, there are racist cops, just like there are racists in every profession, although the power police wield makes it much more important to root out individual racist cops.  But calling all police racists, or calling police racist as an institution, is inaccurate.  It does nothing to help crime victims and certainly nothing to improve policing.

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