We should support our local police, but that also means holding them accountable whether they kneel on necks or kneel in support of ideological movements and rioters.
Across history, nations that allow local control of community police forces are more free, stable, and liberty-driven than societies that have national or centralized systems of policing. Over the long, eventful history of the United States — a history that has routinely witnessed large, peaceful rallies and protests, turbulent and violent riots, and frequent urban disorder, including acts of well-funded and highly organized “anarchy” — independent, community-controlled police departments have been a key factor in preserving the peace and countering dangerous and anti-constitutional demands for a national police force. Never in our history has the concept of local policing been so under assault, from progressive politicians to socialist utopians, and from lawless movements such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
Statistics from the FBI and other watchdog groups demonstrate that the roughly 700,000 local police officers and almost 18,000 police agencies in this country are not rife with brutality, racism, and the wide-scale trampling of civil rights, especially the rights of African-American citizens. This false narrative of police persecution, driven by an intemperate, politicized, and frantically anti-Trump media, has nevertheless been embraced by academia, Hollywood, athletic elites, major corporations, activist groups, and even some churches, all of which are demanding a complete defunding of local police forces nationwide. Of course, bad apples exist in the ranks of America’s police forces — how could they not? And while a greater emphasis on training in arrest tactics and community relations might be beneficial, the idea of defunding police departments — moving instead to progressive models of “community safe-keeping” — is not just absurd, but deeply perilous to the survival of our constitutional republic. That many of these baseless attacks are coming from elected leaders at the federal level is altogether alarming. And while hardly anyone is talking about it, the replacement of locally controlled, independent police departments with community organized models of security would quickly give rise to a national police force, disconnected from the communities they police and taking orders from the federal government.
The John Birch Society and the Need to Protect Our Local Police
The irony of this current irrational attack on local police is the reality that today’s independent police forces have never been more culturally and racially diverse, more highly educated and credentialed, and more involved in public relations and community outreach at any time in our history. And yet this anti-law-enforcement turmoil continues to roil, even though local police are scrutinized more than ever before, sheriffs remain accountable to the local voters who elected them, and police chiefs continue to answer directly to those locally elected officials by whom they were appointed.
More than a half century before this outbreak of reactionary anti-police scapegoating, The John Birch Society, sensing the coming countercultural shifts of the 1960s, created the “Support Your Local Police and Keep Them Independent” project. The initiative was partly started to foil a plot against local police revealed by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee of 1961.
One long-standing member of the Society mentioned to me in passing that during the early ’60s, before the youth counterculture movement began its assault in earnest on traditional American values and structures, many JBS members were initially confused by the creation of the “Support Your Local Police” action item, wondering if there were not more pressing issues to address. Why not, for instance, launch a campaign to support motherhood? This was an age where trust in and support for local police were as deeply ingrained in American citizens as reverence for the flag and the need to defend and control our borders. And yet we see how those pieties have been gutted over the decades in the same way that progressives and anarchists are now gunning for (and gunning down) local police.
Nevertheless, the Society encouraged the creation of ad hoc Support Your Local Police (SYLP) committees that would bring together members and supportive non-members to protect local police in the communities that they served. The emerging plot to discredit local police in 1961 reads like an Antifa training manual, urging crowd-manipulation techniques, “spontaneous” riot creation, and false charges of police brutality to undermine trust and support for officers. The Society’s SYLP movement continues its vibrant and urgent call to arms to this very day, helping to keep calm and offer perspective across all the upheavals, riots, and social decay we have experienced since the early 1960s. And now more than ever the Society seeks your participation in the program, whether you are a member or not. More information can be found here.
In a New American article from October of 2003 entitled “Projecting the Lines,” Jack McManus, now president emeritus of The John Birch Society, verified the anecdote recorded above:
In 1963, [JBS Founder Robert] Welch launched the “Support Your Local Police” campaign. At the time, many Americans wondered why such a project was needed, since policemen were already highly respected by their fellow citizens. That, of course, was before the civil turmoil that rocked the country during the Vietnam War era. But Welch understood even then that the “thin blue line” would have to be vilified as a stepping stone to supplanting independent, local police forces accountable to the communities they served with a national police state accountable to a central government in Washington. In 1967, he added “And Keep Them Independent!” to the already famous slogan he had coined.
The effort is well under way to erase that “thin blue line,” a result that would undoubtedly bring much greater levels of crime and chaos to American communities. Out of that orchestrated and manufactured chaos, calls would immediately go out from citizens of every quarter to reinstate police and reassert lawful control over our neighborhoods and communities. But instead of a return to the many dismantled local levels of police oversight and bureaucracy, the “easier,” more “cost efficient,” more “controllable,” and ultimately more “socially just” solution would be to assemble a highly regulated and utterly centralized national police force.
Already, that “thin blue line” — which has helped keep us safe not just from criminals, but from the criminal class among our own politicians and elected leaders — has been put on the defensive. Supporters of local police are naively sheltering under the hope that “Blue Lives Matter” might rally Americans behind the cause of local police. It is disturbing and monitory to recognize how successful the anarchic Left has been in demonizing the phrase “Blue Lives Matter,” juxtaposing it negatively and with extreme prejudice against their own rallying cry: “Black Lives Matter.” Never mind that Black Lives Matter is for all intents and purposes limited to the remarkably small number (relatively speaking) of unarmed African-Americans killed by police officers. The millions of aborted black babies, black lives lost to black-on-black violence, and black lives sacrificed to drugs appear outside the provenance of the BLM movement, and predictably so. To acknowledge the overwhelmingly, exponentially larger numbers of those victims might suggest that black culture itself has some role to play in this panoply of misery and death.
No, America’s local police forces, in some medieval ritual of collective guilt and atonement, must be identified as the avatar of the nation’s original sin — slavery — and sacrificed in some meaningless act of ritual racial rain-making. In the Orwellian times we now inhabit, just to say the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” is enough to get you cancelled and fired, your personal details doxed, and your family threatened. To fly the Blue Lives Matter flag becomes a racial provocation more sinister than the waving of the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy. But to call such inquisitorial scapegoating medieval is to ignore a godless form of collective guilt and atonement in more recent times — which has characterized socialist and communist states since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Mandatory Apologies Summarily Rejected and the Rituals of Wokeness”
It is now and has always been a hallmark of socialist and communist nations to reject everything about religion that is redeeming and uplifting, while clinging tenaciously to those aspects of communal religious experience that are destructive or humiliating. The treatment of local police we have watched during the protests and riots — it is not possible to neatly pretend the two have nothing to do with each other — does in many ways resemble the kind of discipline and punishment rituals enacted in Marxist and Maoist countries over the last century.
I still have not found anyone else in the mainstream media who has made the following observations. Why on Earth were battalions of American police officers — and then National Guardsmen — assembled along the lines of conflict in places such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta (to name just a few), by big city Democratic mayors (and with the exception of Atlanta, big state Democratic governors) who made it crystal clear that under no circumstances were they to intervene, or stop looters or arsonists, or intercede when people were beaten well-nigh to death, or defend the First Amendment right of journalists to cover the mayhem, or even respond in any way to bricks and bottles and incendiary cocktails heaved in their own immediate (non) peace-keeping direction? (By the way, it’s more than a little ironic that Amazon cancelled Gone With the Wind, a film replete with looting and burning as palpable consequences of ending slavery, at the very same moment that Jeff Bezos was praising and promoting Black Lives Matter in all their burn-y, loot-y glory.) It was further repeated over and over as a kind of exculpatory mantra by politicians, academics, celebrities, and activists that property was only property, so let it burn. These familiar enablers contorted themselves into linguistic pretzels to justify the faculty-lounge double-speak that looting is the logical extension of the peaceful civil disobedience associated with Martin Luther King.
Given that Democratic officials made it clear — implicitly and explicitly — that the burning and looting of their cities was a wholly appropriate response to the killing of George Floyd, why bother forking out all that overtime pay to assemble the troops? The only answer is that they were assembled in full riot gear to pay penance — to endure collective psychological and spiritual shaming as a kind of reparations for the white supremacist sin of being police officers in the first place. What else could it be? Even the Soviets disarmed Red Army soldiers who failed party purity tests before shooting them in the back of the head. But not the white supremacist American police! Oh no, they must stand stock-still in full uniform, with gun and night stick and taser, armed like soldiers and restrained like eunuchs.
The riotesters (my name for rioters pretending to be protesters) knew they had carte blanche not just to burn and steal, but also to insult, curse, threaten, and belittle those cops — not just the cis-gendered white male ones, but the Hispanic, Asian, and African-American ones, too. From the footage I watched, the riotesters were much harder on the minority cops, as if the Caucasian officers were simply garden variety white supremacists, while the minority cops were something much worse — Uncles Tom, Tomas, and Tāngmǔ sī.
The hardest part of watching the riots was seeing scrawny, pasty-white, rickets-riven, college soy boys suddenly entitled to hurl the “N-word” in the faces of politically neutered black cops, all because a white policeman killed George Floyd. (They didn’t even bother to add the courtesy “a” to the end of the “N-word,” which allows rappers and identity-studies professors to claim that the word is unspeakably horrible, while simultaneously using it with the same frequency as a sorority girl uses the word “like.”) Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey went so far as to allow a police precinct building to be occupied by riotesters while police and staff were still in the building. Unlike their front-line brethren, they at least had the freedom to flee the edifice rather than stand passively by and surrender their lunch money in the name of racial healing.
Stockholm Syndrome and Your Local Police: Accountability Is a Two-way Street
During this time of unrestrained emotion, when civic leaders condone the senseless destruction of private and public property, the looting of local businesses, and physical violence unleashed on police officers, it is critically important to vigorously support the overwhelming percentage of hard-working cops who do their jobs with little fanfare. But supporting local police also means holding them accountable when they individually and in groups break public trust. Not only does this happen when they engage in unnecessary force, it occurs when on-duty police officers, manning posts of responsibility during highly incendiary events such as riots, abandon their posts to engage in political activism, kneeling before protesters, marching alongside them, and in (one case) prostrating themselves in misguided and inappropriate acts of solidarity. Nothing is stopping these officers from joining the protests in their off-time, if that is what they wish to do. But to cross the line to placate lawless and rioting mobs is dereliction of duty, and dangerously close to the willful rejection of their oaths of office and civic mandates.
One worrisome aspect of quasi-fascist movements is the coopting of law-enforcement agencies, making them complicit in anarchistic riots that ultimately undermine constitutional governance. It is telling that despite the shows of police solidarity, the anarchists nevertheless commandeered six city blocks in Seattle, emboldened no doubt by the conciliatory and craven non-action of authorities. Among their conquests in Seattle, another police precinct repurposed into a utopian community ashram. No cops allowed, despite the groveling.
It is somewhat understandable: Local city councils and mayors turn on police, joining with agitators and looters to condemn them collectively for what a statistically insignificant number of them on rare occasions do. The local media, hometown sports heroes, and city colleges all participate in stigmatizing the police, while elevating masked cowards who burn and loot and assault into folk heroes. Even their own administrators abandon them, as in Miami, where an entire SWAT team quit the elite force to protest anti-police comments made by their chief.
Stockholm syndrome is real, and creating situations where police are only supported when they renounce law and order — walking away from their posts to placate irrational mobs whose only response is an even greater fervor to abolish police — is a recipe for the kind of orchestrated chaos that ushers into power the latest iteration of progressive fascists. Just ask the gun-wielding, extortionist separatists in Seattle’s cop-free zone (CHOP, aka CHAZ) who bully “residents” and repurpose Black Lives Matter rhetoric to demand an end to Western culture, one prostrate or dead cop at a time.
Photo: AP Images
This article originally appeared in the July 6, 2020 print edition of The New American. The New American publishes a print magazine twice a month, covering issues such as politics, money, foreign policy, environment, culture, and technology. To subscribe, click here.