"The Age of the Alibi, presenting greater sympathy for the violator than the violated, has with elegance prepared us for maximum damage as we face a future of maximum civil disorder. A philosophy which for decades has induced us to believe that human fault must rest always on somebody else's shoulders; that responsibility for behavior damaging to society must invariably be attributed to society itself; that human beings are born not only perfectible but identical, so that any unpleasant divergences must be the product of unpleasant environments; that the suggestion of individual responsibility on the part of the social member or the subgroup for which he bears accountability is retrogressive, reactionary, Calvinistic: such a philosophy has prepared us in all splendor the righteous self-justifications of violent minorities, and has likewise prepared with delicate hand the guilts and bewilderments of the violated."
- Robert Ardrey, "The Social Contract"
'The Social Contract" by the late author and playwright Robert Ardrey was published in 1970. The '60s and early '70s were times marked by violent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and the burning of inner-city neighborhoods (including one in the virtual shadow of the White House) following the April 4, 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In a weird way we are now witnessing a replay of those times of trouble in America. The killing of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and the non-indictment of another white police officer who participated in an arrest gone bad in New York City (one that led to the death of a black man) triggered violent protests in both places, particularly in Ferguson, protests that have spilled over to other cities scattered across the country. (One small demonstration occurred here in Charleston.)
Who will soon forget the sights, sounds and sheer idiocy of the burning, looting and disrespect of police authority, much of it carried on with the acquiescence, if not the overt blessings, of some in high positions of political leadership in America? Who was not angered and dismayed by the chant of marchers in New York streets: "What do we want? Dead Cops! When do we want them? Now!"
How quickly they got what they said they wanted. Two New York policemen both, ironically, non-white, were shot and killed by a black assailant motivated by the ranting of those who marched and waved their pathetic little signs, and parroted the equally pathetic nonsense of race-bating provocateurs. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio may not have these officers' blood on his hands, but it is a fact that he ran for office promising to end "stop and frisk" policing and an anti-black bias he intimated was pervasive in the 35,000 officers in the NYPD (nearly half of them not white). It is a fact that he called the savage beating of two other NYC policemen an "alleged" assault even though a stark video of it had by then received wide distribution. It is a fact that he stated, publicly, that he found it necessary to warn his biracial son to be wary when encountering the police, a statement strongly suggesting racism in the department he, the mayor, was elected to lead. Under such circumstances, is it any wonder that many NYC policemen and policewomen turned their backs on de Blasio when he showed up at the murdered officers' funerals?
Stop and frisk is a tactic police have used to reduce the number of illegal guns and other weapons carried in high-crime neighborhoods. It is indeed controversial, and not only in New York. It raises hackles among those who consider it "racial profiling." Is it any wonder, though, that if police are going to do their job to keep citizens of a city or town secure in their persons and property, they are deployed where these fundamental rights are most at risk? High-crime neighborhoods in major cities across this nation, for whatever historical or social reasons, are largely, sometimes overwhelmingly, black.
It is instructive to take a look, an unbiased one if possible, at what stop and frisk and "broken window" policing (actions targeting petty criminals before they commit more serious crimes) have added to the remarkable transformation that has occurred in New York City since the terrible '60s. Roughly 2,000 homicides were recorded in New York each year before more aggressive policing was introduced. Last year: some 200. The "Scandinavian Strip," three or four blocks of Eighth Avenue just north of 42nd Street, where little girls, many of them bleached blonde and overseen by hard-eyed pimps, is no more. Midtown subway entrances no longer reek of urine. Away from Midtown, inner-city neighborhoods, where swaggering criminals once ruled the roost are now, by and large, safe to visit and to live in.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that New York City was the best policed large city in America, and possibly in the entire world, when its present mayor took office.
I am not a great believer in public opinion polling, but I'll wager that if one were held of New Yorkers who have memory of the way things were before stop and frisk, and broken window policing, most everyone, except the criminal element, the de Blasios and the professional race hustlers, would side with the police.
Are there bad politicians? Yes. Are there bad priests? Yes.
Are there bad teachers? Yes. Are there bad cops? Yes.
But as you go about your everyday routine, rest assured that the overwhelming majority of your country's public servants, and particularly those who put their lives on the line for you each and every day, are not bad. They need and deserve your respect. Give it to them.
Stop this stupid war on the police.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.