Your Support for Brutality or Your Life

In the latest and most open demonstration that some law enforcement officers are prone to go on strike if their tactics are challenged, two unnamed Baltimore cops blandly told CNN that citizens of the city had to choose between safety from criminals and safety from the police, per a report from Brooke Baldwin and Dana Ford:

Forty-two people were killed in Baltimore in May, making it the deadliest month there since 1972.

When asked what’s behind that number, a Baltimore police officer gave an alarming answer. Basically, he said, the good guys are letting the bad guys win.

“The criminal element feels as though that we’re not going to run the risk of chasing them if they are armed with a gun, and they’re using this opportunity to settle old beefs, or scores, with people that they have conflict with,” the officer said. “I think the public really, really sees that they asked for a softer, less aggressive police department, and we have given them that, and now they are realizing that their way of thinking does not work.”

In other words, prosecuting cops for killing Freddie Gray means criminals will run wild. Look in the other direction if some thugs wind up dead under murky circumstances, or you can kiss police protection good-bye.

I know we should not assume these two anonymous cops speak for their colleagues, but if so, they better speak up. This is pretty plainly an effort to extort support for brutality at the end of a gun–not a police service revolver, of course, but the gun hypothetically wielded by the “bad guys” because the “good guys” insist to do their job their way–laws be damned–or not at all.

Aside from the inherently poisonous nature of such demands, there’s not much question these officers are trying to stir up a public backlash against the elected officials, prosecutors and ultimately judges who are supposed to supervise their behavior. And there’s no question this is going to create a huge temptation for conservative politicians–maybe in Maryland, but more likely in far distance locations–to bring back the race-baiting law-n-order politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.