Back in May 2015, Heather Mac Donald warned of a devastating “Ferguson effect” that was emerging out of animosity toward police.
Following the highly publicized deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray in police custody, anti-cop sentiment swelled, police stopped proactively policing, and violent crime spiked, Mac Donald said in an interview with The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” program.
In 2015, the number of homicides in America’s 50 largest cities jumped nearly 17 percent.
In Baltimore, where Freddie Gray’s death sparked riots, the number of homicides in 2015 increased 59 percent from the previous year.
The nationwide unrest following the killing of George Floyd will prompt “a crime surge that is going to dwarf what we saw in 2015 and 2016,” Mac Donald said.
“Now, it’s going to be a bloodbath, because the Black Lives Matter ideology has been embraced and amplified by every mainstream institution in this country,” she said.
While law enforcement officers (and most people of varied political persuasions) across the nation have condemned the horrible arrest and killing of Floyd, the incident has sparked a nationwide backlash against alleged police brutality and racism targeting black Americans.
“As we saw with the first iteration of the Ferguson effect,” police “find themselves surrounded by hostile jeering crowds, cursing at them, throwing bottles,” Mac Donald said.
“Cops were targeted, their throats were slashed, they were firebombed, they were shot at.”
David Dorn, a 77-year-old retired St. Louis police captain, was gunned down while trying to protect his friend’s pawn shop from looters. Dave Patrick Underwood, a 53-year-old federal officer, was shot while on duty during protests in Oakland, California.
Courthouses also have been smashed, defaced, or set on fire. “The most important institutions of the country in preserving law and order, both symbolic and actual, were destroyed,” Mac Donald said.
Little Evidence of Systemic Police Racism
The Black Lives Matter movement, which has led the protests and efforts to “defund the police,” is built upon a false premise, Mac Donald said.
“The data show that policing is driven by crime, not by race,” she said. “Police shootings are predicted by the rate at which cops encounter armed, violent, resisting suspects.”
According to The Washington Post’s database on police shootings, 1,001 people were fatally shot in 2019, including 250 blacks. Only 14 of them were allegedly unarmed. That same year, 25 allegedly unarmed whites were killed by police.
Blacks are not “shot more than their crime rates would predict,” Mac Donald said. Over 54 percent of known perpetrators of homicide in 2019 were black, according to the FBI.
The 14 unarmed blacks killed by police constitute less than 0.2 percent of all black homicide victims, assuming homicide rates in 2019 are similar to those in 2018.
A number of studies in the last few years have failed to find evidence of systemic police bias toward blacks when it comes to fatal shootings, including a 2019 study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 2015 Justice Department report, and research by Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer Jr.
As anti-police sentiments grow, cops will back off from discretionary, proactive policing.
“Society is sending that message that this is racist. So they’re getting the message: ‘OK, if it’s racist, we won’t do it,’” Mac Donald said.
Instead of trying to prevent crime before it occurs, they will become reactive. If a person “looks like he’s got a gun, but there’s no police call about it, they’re just going to drive on by,” Mac Donald said.
In late May, a crowd in Chicago threw bottles at police officers as they arrested a man suspected of a drive-by shooting that had wounded a 5-year-old girl and two teenage boys, according to local authorities.
The day after, a crowd surrounded a police car after authorities had arrested a man they spotted running away from them with a gun that he then threw under a vehicle. The crowd “began pulling on the doors in an attempt to release the offender while interfering and obstructing the officers,” police said.
And the people who will suffer the most as a result are blacks living in high-crime inner-city communities, Mac Donald said. Over half of homicide victims in 2018 were black.
Police indeed “have more interactions with blacks,” Mac Donald said because “they’re in black communities in order to try and save black lives.”
Over the recent Father’s Day weekend in Chicago, 104 people were shot and 14 were killed, including a 3-year-old black child. It was the deadliest weekend for Chicago so far this year.
Police Training and Reform
Although Mac Donald agreed that the culprits in Floyd’s case must be brought to justice, she was wary to join in calls for police reform. “You do not earn reform by rioting,” she said.
But the police force would benefit from more training on de-escalation as well as more realistic, scenario-based training, Mac Donald said.
The New York Police Department and other departments with big budgets “can build whole villages that cops go through” learning to navigate difficult situations. Officers in other departments would benefit from similar exercises.
“They do need constant training in controlling their own stress levels, which is what leads to some questionable shootings,” Mac Donald said.
Implicit bias training, however, is pointless, she said.
Having observed an implicit bias training in Chesterfield, Missouri, Mac Donald said: “It was pretending that there are no crime disparities, trying to tell cops, ‘Well, you know that 5-foot-4 female in this business suit in a briefcase, she may be carrying a gun and is a threat to your life.’
“That’s not what cops need. They need tactical skills.”
The Culpability of America’s University System
In the unrest following the killing of Floyd, vandals have toppled statues of not just Confederate leaders, but also George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Francis Scott Key, who penned America’s national anthem. Even Ulysses S. Grant, the general who led the Union to victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War, wasn’t safe—supposedly because he had briefly owned one slave (who’d been given to Grant by his father-in-law).
“We’re reaping the rewards” of a university system that has inculcated students with the notion that America is systemically racist, Mac Donald said.
“These hatreds, these fires, these rages, the solipsism, the victimology, the narcissism of ignorance is cultivated on college campuses that have sent the message for the last four decades that racism and sexism and bigotry are the defining features of America.
“The biggest taboo on college campuses is to ever talk about behavior as a determinant of individual outcomes. You’re not allowed to do that. Everything has to be systemic.”
And for decades, standards have been lowered in K-12 education, Mac Donald said. “We are terrified of imposing high standards for learning because of the fear of disparate impact, because of the fear of the academic skills gap.”
Colleges, in turn, are receiving “an ever more ignorant crop of high school seniors who know nothing about writing, who know nothing about language or literature, about history.”
“The idea of equality—that is a Western creation. Tolerance is a Western creation. It’s a creation of the enlightenment,” Mac Donald said.
But students are no longer learning about the history of Western civilization, she said.
“I don’t know that I have the philosophical depth to fathom this moment,” she said. It’s hard to find precedents “for a civilization turning on itself with such fury.”
One close example from history could be the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when traditional culture, literature, and spirituality were vilified as backward and oppressive. However, at that time, universities were seen as bastions of such elitism.
“This is different. This is the universities turning against civilization,” Mac Donald said.