Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Political Lies About Police Brutality

Video recordings of police officers battering or even murdering unarmed black citizens have validated longstanding complaints by African-Americans and changed the way the country views the issue of police brutality. Police officers who might once have felt free to arrest or assault black citizens for no cause and explain it away later have been put on notice that the truth could be revealed by a cellphone video posted on the Internet.  This kind of public scrutiny is all to the good, given the damage police brutality has done to African-American communities for generations and the corrosive effect it has on the broader society. Yet the peeling away of secrecy on these indisputably unconstitutional practices is now being challenged by politicians who want to soft-pedal or even ignore police misconduct while attacking the people who expose it or raise their voices in protest against it. This trend is like something straight out of Orwell.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey — the increasingly desperate presidential candidate who is going nowhere fast — took this posture on Sunday when he accused President Obama of encouraging “lawlessness” and violence against police officers by acknowledging that the country needed to take both police brutality and the “Black Lives Matter” protest movement seriously.
The president is absolutely right. This movement focuses on the irrefutable fact that black citizens are far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police. The more the country ignores that truth, the greater the civic discord that will flow from it.
The recent remarks of James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were not as racially poisonous as Mr. Christie’s, but they were no less incendiary. In a speech at the University of Chicago Law School on Friday, Mr. Comey said that heightened scrutiny of police behavior — and fear of appearing in “viral videos” — was leading officers to avoid confrontations with suspects. This, he said, may have contributed to an increase in crime.

There is no data suggesting such an effect, and certainly Mr. Comey has none. But his suggestion plays into the right-wing view that holding the police to constitutional standards endangers the public. Justice Department officials who have made a top priority of prosecuting police departments for civil rights violations — and who dispute that heightened scrutiny of the police drives up crime — were understandably angry at Mr. Comey’s speculations.

More:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/27/opinion/political-lies-about-police-brutality.html


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